When it comes to understanding youth political engagement, it’s critical to look at both data and dynamics on the ground. As a result, to supplement CIRCLE’s primary and caucus analyses, we are also asking practitioners to provide reflections on their work with youth in a given state. These reflections come from different types of organizations—from news media, to schools, to nonprofits— since building sustainable opportunities for youth engagement requires engagement from multiple sectors using multiple strategies.
Below are reflections from a couple of organizations who worked to engage youth in Super Tuesday. While they reflect their perspectives and experiences, not necessarily those of CIRCLE, we want to highlight the important work being done to include young people in the decisions we make as a nation.
Roosevelt Network members at George Mason University in Virgina encouraged their peers to vote in Virginia’s primaries on Super Tuesday. But, they’ve also done 16 lobby visits with their state representatives to emphasize the importance of youth policy priorities and how young voters can be engaged in the state political process. They touched on issues of campus sexual assault, the local economy, education and affordable housing. They also met with the Speaker of the Virginia General Assembly. Virginia students also organizing town halls post the primary for state representatives ahead of the general election. Finally, these students organize weekly meetings on their own campus educating their peers on political issues with a local lens—-bringing in community-based groups to help them in their civic education.
In Colorado, ahead of the caucus, Roosevelt Network members in Denver attended a University of Denver forum for state and local elected officials with their fellow college students from neighboring campuses. Twelve local and state decisionmakers came to discuss the issues most important to young voters in the state. Roosevelt followed up with meeting on the capitol as well. Coloradan students are currently planning another organizing meeting on human rights with decision makers to be held in the coming weeks.
Matt Mueller, James Madison University
Last August the Harrisonburg City Council approved the on-campus voting precinct for James Madison University after a student-led initiative spearheaded by my predecessor Josh Humphries. In the first four weeks of 2016, DukesVote, which is a student-led civic engagement initiative composed of Student Government, Virginia 21, College Democrats, and College Republicans registered over 2,000 people to vote. By the close of the polls on Super Tuesday 1,076 people had voted in our on-campus precinct, with over 90% of them students. Out of the 8 precincts in Harrisonburg, we were 3rd in overall participation and only 104 voters away from being the precinct with the highest turnout.