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Millennials and Gen Z make up the largest group of potential voters in the country. Historically, youth voters have been underrepresented in politics due to low voter turnout, but early voting rates and a swell of activism this year show that young people are posed to reverse this trend in 2020.
Arizona PIRG Students New Voters Project, one of the country’s oldest and largest youth-led voter mobilization efforts, has been at the forefront of the charge to help register and turn out Arizona students to vote. Along with events this past weekend, the group is holding massive virtual “Party at the Polls” Zoom events today in which student volunteers and organizers will connect with thousands of their peers to make a plan to vote.
Media interested in observing any of these efforts either locally or nationwide can RSVP here for the video link. In addition, student organizers will be available for interviews.
Information from student guides on how to vote safely in person is helpful, but young people reaching out to their peers has proven to be a far more effective way of helping new voters get out to the polls. Health concerns due to COVID-19 with voting in person have been a common issue that student callers have had to address.
The organization’s final push for this election caps off a unique virtual organizing effort that started this past spring. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Arizona higher education institutions opted into partial remote learning environments, forcing on-the-ground student groups to shift strategies to reach their peers. Nevertheless, more than 100 volunteers have participated in the project.
“We have traded in our clipboards for Google Docs,” said Sabrina Hicks, Criminology student at Arizona State University. “Now, we are delivering class announcements through our laptop cameras while seated at our kitchen tables.”
Despite these challenges, Arizona PIRG Students have persisted by organizing massive numbers of students on campuses across Arizona. Over the course of the fall semester, the group has educated over 10,000 students in virtual classroom announcements; helps classmates through phone calls to make hundreds of plans to vote safely; and partnered with campus administrators, faculty and other student groups to assist in all facets of the voting process.
“At NAU, we worked with administrators and student government to send out all campus emails that reached over 29,000 thousand students in a single day,” said Aidan Browne, Arizona PIRG Students campus organizer. “Building a diverse vote coalition on campus was critical to reach students on campus.”
Recent data shows that in a number of states, including Arizona, early voting rates exceed totals from the same point in 2016. While many factors contribute to this drastic increase in youth voting, the organizing work of student organizers, faculty and campus organizations should not be overlooked.
“Nationally, I am encouraged to see so many young people voting early and the work Arizona PIRG student leaders and others in Arizona contributed to that effort,” Manny Rin, Student PIRGs New Voters Project director, said. “After the election, the work continues to make sure the youth voice is heard. Our student leaders will continue working with their campuses to ensure voting is a part of the fabric of their institutions and not just an effort every 4 years.”
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