Plus, other voter outreach initiatives ahead of the 2018 elections
Read the ballot; don’t just skim it.
theSkimm, millennial women’s favorite news-condensing newsletter, rolled out a primary election calendar this week to notify users of key state primaries, issues and candidates. While the site’s calendar features typically live behind a paywall, theSkimm said, this one comes free of charge.
“For when your friend says they’re going to skip the polls this year…” read an item in Monday’s dispatch. “No Excuses. It’s an election year, and a lot happens before the November midterms. We made you a calendar so you know when all the major primaries are happening, and more about the candidates on the ballot. And we’re making it free for all Skimm’rs.”
The calendar, launched ahead of Arizona’s special House election on Tuesday and first reported by Axios, syncs state primary election dates and details with users’ Google or Apple calendars. (Each calendar event also comes accompanied by a state-specific emoji.) West Virginia’s yellow tractor emoji-adorned primary on May 8, for example, distills info on the senatorial race and its implications into bite-sized bullet points.
“Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) is up for re-election. Problem for Dems because President Trump won the state by a LOT, and the GOP is making heart eyes at his seat,” the details read. “One of the Republican frontrunners is the anti-establishment businessman Don Blankenship. He’s a former mining exec who went to prison for his role in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 people. Republican leaders in Congress are hoping one of the more mainstream candidates comes out on top.”
theSkimm, whose colloquial current-events digest has a reported 7 million readers and targets a largely female millennial audience, has already made nonpartisan forays into politics over the past few years: Ahead of the 2016 election, theSkimm says, it registered more than 110,000 people — among them 95,000 women — to vote. The company more recently teamed up with Vanity Fair’s The Hive and SurveyMonkey for a yearlong collaboration to study millennial women voters ahead of the midterms.
The daily newsletter company isn’t alone in its outreach to younger voters: “Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi, who turned 18 on Feb. 10, last week launched an “Eighteen x ’18” partnership with the media company NowThis geared toward her fellow first-time voters.
“If you’re turning 18 in 2018, we want you,” Shahidi said in a promotional video announcing the campaign. “Together we are activating young people to register and vote in the 2018 elections, which means that every month, I’ll be taking over NowThis, talking about the upcoming and super important midterm elections. I really want everyone turning 18 to register to vote this year — you only turn 18 once, so let’s make it count.”
Glam Up the Midterms, a celebrity-fueled effort launched in February by comedian Billy Eichner and Funny or Die, strikes a more irreverent tone — panning the low millennial voter turnout during 2014’s midterms as “embarrassing.” The initiative held its first event this month in Oceanside, Calif., with Eichner in conversation with Will Ferrell as his “Anchorman” character, Ron Burgundy.
“From the same team that brought you Between Two Ferns, Billy On The Street, and that Will Ferrell video where he gets cussed out by a baby, Glam Up the Midterms will work to convince voters under the age of 40 that America hasn’t gone to s–t and that they should vote in November,” reads a message on the site.
Current and future young voters have also mobilized around the issue of gun-safety legislation in the wake of February’s Parkland, Fla., school shooting: School walkout organizers facilitated voter registration drives, while volunteers at the youth-led March for Our Lives gun-control rallies March 24 registered thousands to vote. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ nonprofit, billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America and Everytown for Gun Safety this month rolled out a $1.5 million “Our Lives, Our Vote” initiative aimed at registering up to 50,000 people aged 18 and 19.
Plenty of other grassroots voter-outreach operations have taken root, as well: TurboVote, a voter-registration app that partners with nonprofits, colleges and universities, challenged participating campuses to “Ace the Midterms” by reaching 100,000 total TurboVote signups in 2018. And activists behind the Electoral Justice Project targeted screenings of “Black Panther,” which boasted a majority black cast, for a #WakandaTheVote initiative geared at registering black voters.
Millennials — the folks aged 22 to 37 who are poised to overtake Baby Boomers as the biggest population next year — are the most Democratic and liberal of all the generations, per Pew Research, with 62% of registered millennial voters voicing preference for a Democrat congressional candidate this fall. But they gave an unimpressive showing in 2014’s midterms: Just 19.9% of people aged 18 to 29 cast ballots that year, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the lowest youth turnout rate in 40 years.
It’s unclear whether such efforts will have any tangible impact in this year’s primaries or midterms. “I would suspect that voter turnout among younger voters would go up regardless of these efforts, because we know that in midterm environments, the President’s party tends to suffer — and among the opponents of the President are a lot of young people,” Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Moneyish. “The party that is out of power tends to do pretty well in midterm elections.”
“I don’t how successful these groups are going to be, but I’m sure they’ll take credit when youth turnout is perhaps up relative to 2014 — even though that may just be a function of the electoral environment and not so much their efforts,” Skelley added. “Not that I’m discouraging organizations from working to get people registered — I just think it’s difficult to say what effect they’ll have.”
“My sense is that the electoral environment and the issues that are important in the midterm election are going to play a much more significant role in pushing young people to the polls … than initiatives to facilitate or increase voter registration,” added Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Center. “That’s not to say that (these efforts) aren’t important — I just don’t think that there’s a disproportionate impact on the youth vote.”
But the potential here extends beyond young people, Lawless projected, citing the parents of millennials who have been galvanized by the gun-reform issue. “In a lot of ways, it’s the parents of these young people that are really going to have the ability to affect these elections,” she said. “It could be that by maintaining a focus on issues that are especially important to young people, there are also indirect benefits by motivating their parents.”
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