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The youth voter space gears up for 2024 🚀
This week, Voters of Tomorrow launched a new program meant to connect young voters and 2024 candidates, NextGen America endorsed President Joe Biden, and Rise has a new CEO.
It’s been over a week since President Joe Biden launched his reelection campaign, and in turn, the youth voter space is gearing up for 2024.
On Wednesday, Voters of Tomorrow, a national youth-led voter engagement organization with 25 state (and Washington, D.C.)-based chapters launched a new program meant to connect young voters and 2024 candidates.
Meet the ‘Youth Vote Champions’
36 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives have signed a pledge to “engage, educate, and empower” young people in their 2024 campaigns, as part of Voters of Tomorrow’s new “Youth Vote Champion” program. By signing the pledge shown below, elected officials including New York Rep. Dan Goldman, Florida Rep. Maxwell Frost (the first Gen Z member of Congress), California Rep. Katie Porter, and Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin (both of whom are running for US Senate), have “committed to uplifting young people in the political process through sustained youth voter outreach.” Notably, they’ve signed onto holding “youth-oriented campaign events, such as those on college and high school campuses,” and have promised to get Gen Zers “involved directly” in their campaigns. (Full list of candidates below ⤵️)
Asked about the significance of the program, Santiago Mayer, executive director of Voters of Tomorrow, said he hopes the program helps tackle what he described as a “cycle of disengagement.”
"Members of Congress don’t feel they have to represent young people because young people don’t vote [at the same levels as old people], and meanwhile young people sometimes don’t show up to the polls because they don’t feel represented by their elected officials,” Mayer explained. “We’re trying to tackle both ends of that spectrum. Young people do vote when they are talked to, and engaged with, and feel there are people who represent them.”
While Voters of Tomorrow has shown it’s capable of rallying young people in support of candidates (the group contacted young people 8.4 million times ahead of the 2022 cycle), there’s a difference in proximity when the request for support comes directly from the politician, Mayer said. He cited data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts (CIRCLE) showing that the more young people are contacted by a campaign, the more likely they are to vote. According to CIRCLE, in 2022, “there was a 29-point gap in self-reported voter turnout between young people who were contacted at least once and those who were not contacted at all.”
“As much as Voters of Tomorrow can talk to people and tell them what’s happening, it doesn’t mean as much as if a member of Congress is in their school talking to them one on one, going to places where young people are: high schools, college campuses, community colleges, or local community centers,” Mayer said.
Voters of Tomorrow, which is a non-partisan organization, reached out to both Democrats and Republicans while recruiting candidates for its first batch of “Youth Vote Champions.” Only Democrats replied.
“Ideally we would get the entire Congress to sign. This isn’t anything insane. This is just talk to your youngest constituents,” Mayer said.
Mayer emphasized that the Youth Vote Champion pledge does not signal a Voters of Tomorrow endorsement. The group has not made any 2024 endorsements, and has yet to formally weigh in on the 2024 presidential landscape — though the group’s national press secretary Jack Lobel told The Up and Up last week that Voters of Tomorrow is “confident that the Biden campaign will prioritize engaging young voters online and on the ground in advance of 2024.”
Axios’ Erin Doherty first reported on Voters of Tomorrow’s new program.
ICYMI, last week I chatted with one of the lawmakers who signed onto Voters of Tomorrow’s pledge. Check out my conversation about reproductive healthcare access with one of the youngest women in Congress, California Rep. Sara Jacobs, here:
‘We’re not in the 2020 primary’: NextGen America endorses Biden
In other youth-vote news, NextGen America formally endorsed President Joe Biden this week.
Asked about the group’s decision to come out of the gates with their official support within a week of his reelection announcement, NextGen America’s President Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez told The Up and Up that “this administration has delivered for young people,” emphasizing the Biden administration’s actions on climate, student debt, gun safety (though she qualified that when it comes to gun safety the administration has done “as much as they can”), marijuana reform, LGBTQ+ rights, and nominating the first Black female Supreme Court justice.
“That made coming out and supporting the administration for a second term this early a no brainer,” Tzintzún Ramirez said. “Our strategy is to elect the Biden administration another four years to enact even further progressive policy.”
“We’re not in the 2020 primary,” Tzintzún Ramirez explained.
Asked if NextGen’s decision to endorse early was an isolated decision or more of a reaction to the alternative from candidates on the right and the fact that the Democratic world has more-or-less coalesced around the president, while she acknowledged that the current alternative to the president is, “fascism,” Tzintzún Ramirez expressed confidence in the president.
Though NextGen is bullish on Biden, not all youth vote groups immediately responded to his reelection campaign this way.
Last week, March For Our Lives, Sunrise, United We Dream, and Gen Z for Change wrote a letter urging the president to run on an even more progressive agenda. “We need you to listen and co-govern with us if we’re going to be able to mobilize the young voters we need to win,” the groups wrote.
Tzintzún Ramirez acknowledged that “groups jobs are to push for more.”
“We’re all in belief that we need more and can see more,” she said. “At NextGen, we think the way to do that is by giving [the president] another four years.”
The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign itself responded to NextGen’s endorsement.
“President Biden is honored to have earned NextGen’s support for reelection. Young Americans want decisive leadership and action for a safer, stronger, and more equitable America, and President Biden is fighting for that future. Activating and mobilizing young Americans will be mission-critical to expanding our winning 2020 coalition in 2024, and with NextGen’s network of young Americans across the country, we are one step closer to that goal,” Biden-Harris 2024 campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement.
For Tzintzún Ramirez, this statement demonstrates a recent uptick in attention to young voters. But attention alone is not enough, and ahead of 2024, Tzintzún Ramirez hopes folks eager to talk about young voters spend time and money on them, too.
“We’re at a place where there is a realization of the importance of the youth vote. But it all comes down to dollars. It’s not about lip service, it’s about money and time being spent on youth,” she said.
Rise has a new CEO, Mary-Pat Hector
In another pre-2024 move, Rise, the youth-focused college affordability and pro-democracy organization, announced its new CEO, Mary-Pat Hector.
Hector previously served as the group’s Georgia state director, where she mobilized college and high school students, especially in 2020 and 2022 when the Peach state became the center of the political universe two times over for Senate runoff elections. And she has been a leading voice in pushing the Biden administration to cancel a chunk of student debt.
Prior to that, at 19-years-old in 2017, Hector ran for city council in DeKalb County, where she lost by 22 votes. "That's why voting is so important. Elections have consequences and every vote counts. If you don't see that elected official that you want to see, then you need to be that elected official," Hector said in a video announcing her new role.
Hector is taking the reigns from Maxwell Lubin, who started the organization.
Youth vote in the news 🗞
Eager to read more about the push and pull between young people and President Biden? Check out this great piece on the current relationship (and tension) between young voters and the president from CNN’s Greg Krieg and Eva McKend: ‘It’s a hard sell’: Gen-Z activists warn Biden over frustration among young voters.