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Read our current and previous coverage of the 2018 election season as you prepare to cast your ballot. You'll find information on important races, explanations of constitutional amendments and details of local referendums.

Young Voters Push Peers To The Polls

Daylina Miller
Isabella Fernandez with NextGen America encourages University of South Florida Tampa students to go to early voting at the on-campus Yuengling Center.

Political experts say more than half of Florida's registered voters are made up of the youngest generations – millennials and Generations X and Z – and they could potentially seriously influence next week’s midterm election.

But historically, this group is less likely to actually cast a vote.

With one week to go until the midterm election, some younger voters are pushing their peers to early voting.

Isabella Fernandez spent her Tuesday afternoon on the University of South Florida Tampa campus encouraging students to take advantage of early voting at the Yuengling Center, where anyone who is registered to vote in Hillsborough County can cast a ballot through Sunday, Nov. 4.

A member of NextGen America, she says the advocacy group – which is nonpartisan but generally supports progressive candidates -  spent the past few months canvassing neighborhoods around college campuses encouraging young people to vote.

“We registered over 50,000 students and people all over Florida for the upcoming election,” Fernandez said. “So now we're just following up with them and making sure they get to the polls."

Fernandez said their surveys indicate the top five issues younger people care about when casting their ballots are the cost of college, affordable healthcare, racial equity and justice, climate change and gun safety.

Earlier this year, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that the share of new registrations by people under 30 went up eight percent in Florida and two percent nationally since the February 14 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High school in South Florida.

“A lot of young people are disheartened because there’s a bunch of old people running, and a bunch of old people in office, right?” NextGen American volunteer Sam Spender told a group of students who came up to the booth.

“And you’re just like, ‘they don’t represent the issues that I care about.’ But this year there are a lot of new faces, a lot of young people running for office. It’s kind of exciting. Even if you can’t get on board with the candidates, there are a lot of amendments on the ballot that are going to directly impact you and people you know.”

Jade Swaby, 23 and a recent mass communications graduate of the USF, is hosting a "Brunch To Vote" party this weekend to help younger people get to polling stations.

“We’re actually taking people from the party to the polling station to early vote, then back to the party,” Swaby said. “We got shuttles, we got free food, a DJ, raffles and stuff like that. So I definitely think it’s important for people to vote, and note just vote, but early vote.”

“Younger people have a tendency to sway the decision and make a real difference if they want to…millennials have the biggest voice, the biggest presence right now in our country.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders will also make a push for young voters when he campaigns with Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw at USF on Wednesday as they rally for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. 

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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