“Most fear stems from sin; to limit one’s sins, one must assuredly limit one’s fear, thereby bringing more peace to one’s spirit.” – Marvin Gaye.
I believe young voters of color could be the sweet spot in civic engagement next year. Last week I had the privilege of connecting with a young NAACP organizer. We discussed strategies to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. He asked if we’ll ever see the kinds of organizing training that was common pre-pandemic. “You know the mass teaching events that attracted tons of media and thousands of attendees? With an audience that included members of Congress, mayors, and local councilpersons?”
While in those trainings, a person could catch up with old friends, distant colleagues and meet up with mentors. We would talk about the movement and discuss ways to address civic empowerment issues like redistricting and receive powerful advice. “When life presents more challenges than you can handle, delegate to God. He not only has the answer, He is the answer.”
Young activists have and always will rely on mentorship. As voters, they also benefit from a different kind of mentorship — knowing family members working over fifty-five hours a week and learning about the issues they deal with. Maybe that’s why they get so disappointed with the current redistricting process. While politicians choose who will vote for them, young people realize that they and their hard-working family members are being left out of the process.
What the long-term effects of leaving young people out of the process? Will this widen the gap with young Voters of Color (VOC) on Election Day? Will it solidify positive movement or become a hurdle for young voters of color next year?
Looking at studies from key districts and the last round of redistricting, we are on track to have a similar electorate as the previous decade, where the youth could make up 18% of the vote. As witnessed last year, an energized young VOC electorate can be the difference in multiple races. This is key for understanding the next decade of voting results.
For example, while voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped for New Jersey to 9% in 2009. The same is true for young voters in Virginia; they were 21% of the electorate in 2008 and only 10% in 2009. Why? A substantial number of young VOCs decided to stay home.
What is the possible impact on future elections? If a politician leads their challenger among 18-29-year-old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, if 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting, the political landscape becomes favorable for NAACP supporters. If the base of support from young voters on “major issues” like immigration reform is at least 45% – 25%, then they will see substantial support from young voters of color.
These numbers will be even more critical in places like New Jersey, where VOC is 31% of New Jersey’s citizen voting-age population. They comprised 28% avg. of the electorate in recent elections. By comparison, in 2010, Hudson county’s population grew by 4% to 634,266, and Jersey City’s population increased by 3% to 247,597. This is a majority Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 essential VOC.
Looking deeper, you can see how engaging young people during redistricting can positively impact the future of civic engagement. For many, voting provides a sense of independence, responsibility, and purpose. In addition, if politicians are lucky enough to gain their support, they benefit from their vote and their ideas.
It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person votes for the first time. This is one of the first meaningful investments they will make for their future. The funny thing is that it will be a massive investment in America’s future as well.
To be continued …
Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.