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Youth voter registration efforts make midterm impact

%22oCo+For+Change+partnered+with+the+Montgomery+County+Board+of+Elections+and+MCR-SGA+to+implement+a+voter+registration+drive+in+every+high+school+in+MCPS.+This+initiative+took+place+over+the+course+of+four+weeks%2C+starting+on+September+17th%2C+and+ending+on+October+12th.%22+
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Youth voter registration efforts make midterm impact

"oCo For Change partnered with the Montgomery County Board of Elections and MCR-SGA to implement a voter registration drive in every high school in MCPS. This initiative took place over the course of four weeks, starting on September 17th, and ending on October 12th."

photo by MC4C

"oCo For Change partnered with the Montgomery County Board of Elections and MCR-SGA to implement a voter registration drive in every high school in MCPS. This initiative took place over the course of four weeks, starting on September 17th, and ending on October 12th."

photo by MC4C

photo by MC4C

"oCo For Change partnered with the Montgomery County Board of Elections and MCR-SGA to implement a voter registration drive in every high school in MCPS. This initiative took place over the course of four weeks, starting on September 17th, and ending on October 12th."

by Kelly Chicas, Staff Writer

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Youth voter turnout in the United States has historically been lower in comparison to older groups, but in light of recent pushes to close this gap and increase voter participation, as well as results from this year’s midterm elections, it seems as though things are starting to change – and we’re seeing some signs of it right here at home.

Montgomery County Students for Change (MC4C), a student led organization that promotes civic engagement and political activism in Montgomery County, recently held a 4-week voter registration drive in anticipation of last week’s midterm elections. The initiative was coordinated in partnership with the Montgomery County Board of Elections and the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR SGA), beginning on September 17th, and ending on October 15th.

The organizers of this project were able to coordinate the largest and first-ever student-led, county-wide voter registration drive. According to representatives of the organization, the student groups were able to register approximately 3800 new young voters.  

The Bethesda Patch recently published an article reporting that “Early voter turnout for young voters in Montgomery County has more than tripled since the last midterm elections in 2014”. According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, there was a 69% increase in the number of young voters that casted their ballots early from 2014 to 2018. From 2014 to 2018, there was an 11.17% increase in the number of voters that actually turned up at the polls.

Springbrook student Michael Solomon, a founding member and Co-President of MoCo Students For Change, helped organize the DMV student walkouts earlier this year, is deeply involved in political activism, and was even featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s November 5th issue, Guns In America. He recently spoke with The Blueprint on the importance of voting and civic engagement, especially among young people.

“The 18-24 voter bracket has the lowest turnout rate out of every other voting age group in the country. Because so many of our elections – both nationally and locally – are often decided by such small margins, boosting voter turnout among young people could make a significant impact in our political process,” Solomon said.

The voter registration drive was the first of its kind in Montgomery County and, with a project this large, there were some inevitable logistical challenges.

“Most of the challenges we faced during the VR drive were logistical issues like finding adequate staffing for each of the schools we were at,” Solomon explained. “There were also some initial roadblocks regarding our organization’s somewhat partisan stances on some political issues, but that eventually had no effect on our ability to work with MCPS and the board of elections on this project”.

Solomon was referring to some of the changes the organization underwent over the summer. In July, the group voted to transition from “MoCo Students For Gun Control” to “MoCo Students For Change”. According to the mission statement on their website, MoCo Students For Change is now focused on civic engagement and political advocacy.

photo by Andrew Harnik/AP
On March 14, 2018, MoCo For Change (then MoCo Students For Gun Control) organized a rally of approximately 6,000 MCPS and DMV students on Capitol Hill.

“While this organization was originally founded in support of the student-led movement against gun violence, we have since expanded our platform to include all forms of social justice advocacy,” it states.

The 2018 midterm elections ended with historic, record-breaking turnout among all groups, and 31% of eligible voters age 18-24 exercised their right to vote. With the help of MoCo Students For Change, MCR-SGA, and the Montgomery County Board of Elections, the nation-wide shift in voting culture is taking place right here at home.

“Young people are the leaders of the future, and they’re the change-makers of today. Empowering them with the ability to impact the political process and make their voices heard is the best tool anyone could give them, and that’s what we aimed to do,” said Solomon.

 

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Youth voter registration efforts make midterm impact