In the wake of one mass shooting after another the Republicans in Congress have blocked any meaningful effort to pass common sense gun control measures - an even better move would to remove gun manufacturer immunity from lawsuits by those harmed by their deadly products - many Millennials seemingly are waking to the reality that the only way to create change is to register to vote and "vote the bastards out." Data reveals that the young are registering at an accelerated rate and, if they actually get to the polls, could achieve the goal of sending politicians bought and paid for the gun lobby into forced retirement. A piece in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon. Here are highlights:
The pace of new voter registrations among young people in crucial states is accelerating, a signal that school shootings this year — and the anger and political organizing in their wake — may prove to be more than ephemeral displays of activism.
They could even help shape the outcome of the midterm elections. If voters in their teens and 20s vote in greater numbers than usual, as many promised during nationwide marches for gun control this spring, the groundswell could affect close races in key states like Arizona and Florida, where there will be competitive races for governor, the Senate and a number of House districts in November.
The deadly shooting on Friday at Santa Fe High School in Texas will probably add urgency to the efforts. Hours after the carnage, young organizers mobilized by the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., were vowing a political response.
“Santa Fe High, you didn’t deserve this,” Emma González, an organizer from Parkland, posted on Twitter. “You deserve peace all your lives, not just after a tombstone saying that is put over you. You deserve more than Thoughts and Prayers, and after supporting us by walking out we will be there to support you by raising up your voices.”
The question is whether they will vote. Even some Republicans are beginning to believe they will.
“The shooting at Parkland high school was the tipping point for these kids,” said Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster. “The bravery and activism of the Parkland kids ignited their peers across the country, and these newly minted 18-year-old voters are already motivated. The school shooting in Texas surely adds to their resolve but, honestly, they didn’t need any more motivation.”
Voter data for March and April show that young registrants represented a higher portion of new voters in Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among other states. In Florida, voters under 26 jumped from less than 20 percent of new registrants in January and February to nearly 30 percent by March, the month of the gun control rallies.
In North Carolina, voters under 25 represented around 30 percent of new registrations in January and February; in March and April, they were around 40 percent.
In Pennsylvania, voter registrations across age groups increased sharply in March and April before the primary last week, but registrations of young voters increased the fastest, jumping to 45 percent in March and more than half in April, from fewer than 40 percent of voters in January and February.
And those new registrants lean Democratic. Of the new voters ages 25 and under in the state, a third registered as Democrats; 21 percent signed up as Republicans; and 46 percent registered as either unaffiliated or with another political party.
In addition to the registration figures, new polling of younger voters from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics found a significant jump from two years ago in those who say their involvement will make a difference. Such optimism indicates a voter is more likely to actually turn out.
“What I have seen is what I am calling a once in a generation attitudinal shift about the efficacy of participating in the political process,” said John Della Volpe, the director of the institute, who has specialized in polling younger voters for nearly two decades. “I am optimistic that the increasing interest we have tracked in politics will likely lead to increased participation in the midterms.”
So far, the Harvard polling indicates that Democrats are the more likely beneficiary of the increased commitment to voting, with half of voters 18 to 29 saying they will vote Democratic. The remainder are divided between Republicans and independents.
“Also, just the sheer number of individuals who say they will definitely vote, 37 percent, is as high as it’s ever been,” Mr. Della Volpe said. “That’s likely to only grow stronger. The number among Democrats is 51 percent saying they will definitely vote.”
Younger voters were not moved by either President Trump or Hillary Clinton, but Mr. Trump’s election reawakened them “only to be brought to life in more powerful ways in the last two months, post-Parkland shooting,” Mr. Della Volpe said. “This now has the potential to turbocharge that.”
The deaths in Texas may only add more fuel.
Several groups are working to help that happen. NextGen America, a group funded by the activist billionaire Tom Steyer, is targeting voters ages 18 to 35 in 10 traditional battleground states, in addition to Arizona. The group reported on Monday that it had registered 36,789 voters, including 8,459 in Florida, its top state.
Another group, Inspire U.S., has been concentrating on registering high school students in their classrooms. They have registration drives in 10 states and more than 200 high schools and have registered more than 41,000 students since the group started three years ago. Inspire also uses a texting app to remind users to vote.
Many governors are promoting voter registration drives in their state’s high schools, including Virginia in recent weeks.
Let's hope the registrations continue, that these newly registered voters actually vote, and that the midterms turn out to be a bloodbath for Republicans.