HARRISBURG, PA — Today, Pennsylvanians head to the polls to vote in the most consequential election in recent history. With millions of ballots already cast, NextGen PA’s pivot to digital organizing played an integral role in energizing and mobilizing young voters and ensuring they practice their right to vote safely amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over the weekend, NextGen made 516,000 calls and sent 522,000 texts to young Pennsylvanians to finalize their plans to vote, answer any questions, and ensure they had the resources they needed to get out and vote safely.
“We’ve said it all along: the youth vote will determine how Pennsylvania swings,” said Larissa Sweitzer, State Director of NextGen PA. “Months of engagement and years of activism have led to this moment. Young Pennsylvanians are absolutely ready to take control of our futures and elect a President who will listen to our concerns — and that President is Joe Biden.”
Trump narrowly won the Keystone state in 2016 with the smallest margin of victory in 176 years. NextGen’s 2020 program has been centered around the idea that young voters can make up that margin. That’s informed by examples from 2018, when young people turned out in the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to take back the House. Building on the strength of that movement, voters under 35 welcomed the voting reforms under Act 77 and embraced the option to vote by mail without an excuse. In the June primary, after shifting to digital-first organizing and tirelessly educating young voters about their options to vote by mail, 24% of those contacted by NextGen voted early and returned their mail-in ballots at rates 6 points higher than their peers. With record-high enthusiasm among young voters around the country and the expanded access to voting brought on by this year’s reforms, NextGen expects high youth turnout in all corners of the Commonwealth today.
The stakes of an election have never been higher in Pennsylvania. While younger generations already faced massive challenges to their livelihood — from a ballooning student debt crisis to an environmental mess left by past generations to mass racial injustice — voters were confronted with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis this year that almost immediately cast a shadow on the single core tenet of our democracy: voting.
With a dual goal of revitalizing grassroots democracy and electing progressive candidates up and down the ballot, NextGen PA ran an innovative organizing program that reached young voters where they are: on campus, in their communities, and online. NextGen PA deployed 61 organizers and fellows on college campuses and youth-dense communities around the Commonwealth and invested a total of $7.5 million in turning out young voters to defeat Donald Trump, send all 20 electoral votes to Joe Biden, and elect progressives up and down the ticket.
NextGen PA organized college campuses and communities through a number of issue-based town halls with elected officials, social media days of action, direct mail, and organic digital voter outreach. Notably, NextGen centered its program on educating young voters on the process of registering to vote and voting by mail in the unique spaces young people occupy online: dating apps, virtual concerts, and issue-based Facebook groups. Digital tactics, coupled with traditional mail drops and mass phone banking and text banking, proved successful in activating a generation of voters who overwhelmingly share the collective goal of ousting Trump and his GOP allies from office.
“Pennsylvania picks the presidency, and young voters were extremely ready to vote this president out,” said Sarah Eagan, NextGen PA Press Secretary. “This generation will be remembered for the resilience of its activism, insistence for justice, and its ability to harness social movements into electoral change. Young people are taking control of our futures and electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is just the first step. ”
“Young people are the largest eligible voting bloc in the country, and they are overwhelmingly progressive. NextGen knows that when young people turn out, Democrats win.”
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