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By Kirk Clay

Will Young Voters of Color Amplify Their Voice in New Jersey 2013 Elections?

There are plenty of reasons for New Jersey’s young surging electorate to vote this year. They will have a chance

to elect New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator who will be their voice in D.C. on issues that matter to them.  Issues like financial aid for college, student loan debt and jobs. Also, they have the opportunity to elect the next Governor.

To succeed they must remember 1+2+3.  First, they need to vote on August 13th for the special primary election.  Second, they need to vote again for their candidate on the October 16th – United States Senate special election.  And three, they will claim victory when they vote on the November 5th gubernatorial election. One, two, three. August 13, October 16, November 5th.

If young people vote, they will be part of a historic game-changing election!  With the entry of candidates like Cory Booker, the political narrative has changed. Now their vote can reflect the changing demographics of New Jersey.

This year’s election also provides an opportunity for the rising progressive electorate to expand, deepen and strengthen its proven game-changing system which turns out record levels of voters of color (VOC). This will be a demonstration on how new media, politics, and old fashion “Get Out The Vote” tactics can impact voter turnout rates in communities of color. As established in 2012, this electorate has the power to elect candidates — including women and African Americans — to local offices, state capitals, and U.S. Senate.

So how will these voters affect this year’s election? Conservative candidates rely on low voter turnout to win in off year elections. The majority of their vote comes from precincts where they have outsized support from older white male voters. While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped to 9% in 2009. The same is true for Voters of Color; they were 27% of the electorate in 2008 and only 25% in 2009. However, their vote share bounced back to 30% in 2010 and soared to 31% in 2012.

What’s the difference this year? Just like in the 2012 campaign, new tools for contacting progressive voters make it possible to expand the electoral map at critical points in the campaign. For example, there are close to 500,000 eligible Voters of Color in 13 important cites like Newark, Jersey City, Camden, and Atlantic City. These communities are heavily populated, under-resourced, and ripe for cross-platform civic engagement. Strategic use of 21st century data-driven technology in these and other cities will ignite key voters and increase turnout throughout the state.

In the end, we have to remind ourselves that all elections are about voter registration and turnout. Therefore, any effort that has success reaching unique pockets of voters will have an impact at the polls. These voters can easily overwhelm daily tracking polls by amplifying their voice on Election Day. All it will take is a combination of traditional civic engagement tactics combined with the use of various social media mediums to engage and expand the state’s Youth and People of Color electorate. This strategy of micro-targeting voters proved to be clutch in 2012 and it delivered a powerful victory for the progressive coalition.

Simply put, politicians will not survive in this new political landscape if they can’t connect with the rising electorate. Understanding the nature of cross-platform civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. In the past, networking may have been a second tier concern but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics. Campaigns that don’t understand this will miss the mark. If they can’t intimately link to communities of color with authentic social media tools they will fall short. It’s as simple as New Jersey 1-2-3. #NJ123

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC