The national group that worked to turn out youth vote in Florida says young voters showed up

NextGen Florida
NextGen Florida members. Credit: NextGen Florida.

Florida’s election is undergoing a recount frenzy, so official voter data is not yet available, but one thing is certain according to the group working the hardest to mobilize young voters around the state – the young people voted.

“We did our job,” says NextGen Florida state youth director Carly Cass. “Young people turned out and had an impact.”

The Florida chapter of the national young voter mobilization giant first opened in September of 2017 with a $3.5 million grant from American billionaire Tom Steyer. In the year since, NextGen reports it spent a total of $9.7 million to register and motivate young people (roughly 18-29 years old) to vote in this year’s midterm election.

“I think we did extremely well, and I think that that is evidenced by flipping two (Congressional) seats,” says Cass.

The two South Florida seats Cass references now belong to Democratic candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who won against Republican Carlos Curbelo, and Democratic candidate Donna Shalala, who won against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar (and no-party affiliate Mayra Joli, who got roughly 2 percent of the vote).

“We’re still trying to figure out the outcome of this particular election,” Cass says. “(But) the movement that was built isn’t going anywhere.”

NextGen documented voter turnout near five universities around the state and found that turnout in those areas was significantly higher this year than in 2014’s midterm election.

Around the University of Central Florida in Orlando, voter turnout was almost quadruple what it was in 2014, up from 355 people who voted to 1,390 people who voted, NextGen reports. At Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach, voter turnout was nearly twice what it was in 2014. At the University of Florida in Gainesville, nearly three times as many people voted this year when compared to 2014, up from 908 people who voted to 2,450 people who voted, NextGen reports.

NextGen also looked at voter turnout near Florida State University and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and says the areas saw significant increases from 2014.

Cass says it’s too early to predict if the issues that NextGen documented as priorities for young voters –such as climate change, affordable healthcare, and the cost of attending a public university – will be a large part of the 2019 Legislative session, but Cass says she believes the energy NextGen amplified in this year’s election will have an ongoing impact in state politics.

“Young people are really going to be speaking up,” Cass says. “I think that this energy around the youth vote isn’t going anywhere.”

CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies, and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola and currently lives in Tallahassee with her tabby cat, Faulkner.

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