With just over a year until the 2022 midterm elections, NextGen America — the progressive youth voter engagement organization — is launching a $32 million program to engage young voters across eight states.
NextGen will organize in Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada with a goal to “register, inform and mobilize” hundreds of thousands of young voters, the group says.
The organization wants to register more than 288,000 voters across the country, including 150,000 in Texas, and reach more than 9 million young people between the ages of 18 and 35 with information about voting in the midterms.
Already this month, NextGen has started to contact potential voters with voter registration mail. Between September and October, the group aims to reach nearly 99,000 young voters nation wide with mail and will text and call 1.4 million more.
“I think we’ve won a lot already with the power and turnout of young voters. But ultimately what we care about at NextGen is delivering on real change,” NextGen Executive Director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez told CNN, adding that NextGen hopes to deliver a message to any legislator who is “trying to cling to the past.”
“If they want to do that, they can cling to the past, but the future belongs to us,” she said.
NextGen’s investment comes following high levels of youth civic engagement in recent years, leading to historic youth voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections and one of the highest youth voter turnout rates in the 2020 general election. In 2020, half of young people ages 18-29 voted, according to research from Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts (CIRCLE), an 11-point jump from the 39% of young people ages 18-29 who voted in 2016.
Ahead of the 2020 election, NextGen, founded by businessman Tom Steyer in 2013, contacted more than 10.5 million people, the organization said.
To kick off its 2022 initiative, NextGen this week is holding in-person events in Texas, where the group is organizing for the first time. The organization will host events in both McAllen and Houston.
“We are investing early and to scale in young people and young people of color in the largest battleground in the country,” Tzintzún Ramirez, who is from Texas, said.
In Texas, young people of color accounted for a majority of everyone who has turned 18 since the 2016 election, according to census figures.
Tzintzún Ramirez said that the group is expanding to the Lone Star state in part because of its youth and diversity. Yet she stressed that while “demographics are an ingredient for change,” they alone are not the difference maker and concerted organizing efforts are necessary for progress.
“As one of the youngest states in the country, young people in Texas have the power to determine an entire new direction not just for our home state, but the nation,” she said, adding that she believes controversial policy decisions made by the Republican majority in the Texas state legislature over access to the ballot box, abortion and immigration do not correspond with the will of young people in the state.
“If the legislature of Texas actually enacted the will of young Texans we wouldn’t be banning abortion, we wouldn’t be trying to build a useless border wall and we wouldn’t be passing voter suppression bills,” Tzintzún Ramirez said.
Currently, NextGen has a volunteer base of 25,000 people across the country.
To implement its new initiative, the group will have organizing staff on the ground in Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and will do distributed digital organizing in New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada.
In addition to mailing, calling and texting potential voters, the group said it aims to reach young people through social media and its influencer program.
Asked why he is committed to investing in young people, Steyer told CNN he believes the youth vote is critical to getting progressives elected.
“There is an increasing recognition of a threat to democracy, and we are basically an organization dedicated to the broadest most reflective democracy, specifically by making sure people who vote the least, under age 35, show up, make their voices heard and are counted. They will change the nation,” he said.
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