In Parkland, Florida, more than two dozen teenagers gathered Tuesday morning to make calls to remind voters to go to the polls. Many of the Parkland students, who had lost 17 classmates and teachers to a school shooting at their high school in February, were still too young to vote themselves.
“I can’t vote, so I wanted to do my part and get other people to vote for me,” said Ariana Ali, a 17-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
“Hi, I’m Kelly, I’m with March for Our Lives. Can I count on your vote?” Kelly Mathesie, another 17-year-old senior, said brightly. She and her friends were sitting in tight circle, their sticker-covered laptops open in front of them. “Thank you so much for voting!” she said. One of her friends cheered.
Nine months after the shooting at their school, the students who helped organize a national youth violence against gun.
“I think we’ve already reached victory,” said Sarah Chadwick, 17, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Early youth voting had surged in multiple states, including 700% in Tenneesee, more than 500% in Texas.
Struggling to get their online phone banking interface working, some students started going through their phones and leaving messages for everyone they knew. Others broadcast live on Instagram.
“I’m going through all my phone contacts as making sure that everyone I’ve ever met has voted,” Sofie Whitney explained, leaving a message for one contact. “If anyone you know isn’t voting, cut off all ties with them,” she said on another message.
“Everyone I know and love is voting,” she said.
Whitney said she wanted to see youth voter turnout rise to match the turnout for the oldest voters in the 2014 midterm elections: fewer than 20% of voters 18 to 29 had voted in 2014, compared with nearly 60% of voters over sixty, giving the oldest voters a decisive power over the election.
Getting the youth vote turnout rate as high as 60% or 70% would be unprecedented. Even a smaller jump in youth vote turnout could point to a dramatic change in youth voting culture, experts said.
“Honestly, everything is possible at this point, we’re proving everyone wrong,” Whitney said.