Panelists: America Needs Young Voters in Election Day
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Panelists: America Needs Young Voters in Election Day

Portland, Oregon, USA – Youth voting rights advocates debated what motivates – or deters – the youngest segment of the electorate as the 2024 election approaches.

Nonprofits and independents, as well as student voting activists, joined U.S. Rep. Jaime Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, for an online panel discussion this week. Partners 4 Democracy, an informal working group that works to support liberal and progressive candidates, hosted the event.

“Young people can and will have a decisive influence,” Raskin said.

Raskin, the founder of Democracy Summer, created the program to help his younger relatives get involved in his 2006 congressional campaign.

Now, Democracy Summer has “over 1,000 young people in 45 states,” he said. The goal of the program is to teach students that “nothing is impossible, nothing is inevitable.” In discussing youth voting, Raskin focused on the importance of encouraging younger voters to go to the polls in 2024.

“We need the younger generation,” Raskin said.

Raskin noted efforts by youth to promote the Biden administration’s positions on issues such as the war in Gaza.

He explained that young people are “beyond racism” and “understand things in a profound way.”

But Raskin said young voters are needed “right now” – before the election.

Alberto Medina, leader of the nonpartisan, independent Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University, agreed.

“Young people need support to help them feel qualified (to vote),” Medina said.

However, students on the panel expressed concerns about the messages being conveyed to young people about voting.

Saffarino Dour, a student panelist, described the anxiety many students felt about the election. Dour said many young people questioned the power of their vote.

“The stakes are a lot higher than you think,” Dour said.

Julia Lewis, another panel member representing students at American University, said the atmosphere among students was less optimistic.

For young people to feel more motivated to vote, Lewis says, they need to focus on what politicians represent, even if they don’t feel obligated to vote.

Still, Lewis expressed personal doubts.

“I find it hard to feel inspired and hopeful about the election,” Lewis admitted.

Elizabeth Brubaker, a member of a student panel at Emory University, noted that many young voters are disenfranchised.

“We devalue the emphasis on youth,” Brubaker said.

Brubaker said that to encourage young people to vote, organizers should try to change the approach to take into account the specifics of each person.

Nevertheless, the panelists expressed hope for future solutions.

Zed Shapiro is the founder of TurnUp, a nonprofit and mobile app that helps young people register and vote.

“The vast majority of young people are never asked to register (to vote),” Shapiro said, adding that no one shows them how to do it.

Dana Kim is a reporter for Youth Journalism International.