More youth, Latinos voted. Now groups get ready for 2020.

By Suzanne Gamboa and Nicole Acevedo

AUSTIN, Texas — Tera Tanguma, 23, moved with the line of voters outside a Fiesta grocery store, passing the time with her nose in her book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Tanguma hadn’t gotten around to voting early, but said she was not going to miss the chance to cast a ballot last Tuesday. Plus, the young Latina said, it was meaningful to take part in the voting process on Election Day.

Young adults like Tanguma voted in higher numbers than any other midterm elections in the past 25 years, according to a preliminary analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), which studies young Americans’ political engagement.

They estimated that 31 percent of eligible young voters ages 18 to 29 turned out to vote this year, better than the past seven midterms. It’s particularly noticeable considering that 2014 had the lowest youth turnout rate.

“It was exciting to come out and vote this time, for Beto,” said Tanguma, referring to Beto O’Rourke, the youthful Texas congressman who failed in his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, yet rallied many in the state with his social media videos, Whataburger meal stops and his grassroots, no-corporate-PAC-contributions campaign.

Image: Tera Tanguma
Tera Tanguma, 23, lined up outside a Fiesta grocery store in Austin, Texas, to vote on Election Day.Suzanne Gamboa / NBC News

By doing so, they may have changed the narrative on their voting behavior as an electorate that was largely missing at the polls to one that is a growing force that might swing the country in a progressive, more liberal direction. Rallying voters to the polls is especially significant for Latinos, who are such a young demographic.

Groups rallied to increase young Latino participation

An NBC News exit poll found one in four Latino voters said they cast a midterm ballot for the first time this year. A recent Pew Research Trends post stated that although it’s too soon to know Hispanic voting numbers and turnout rate, “Latinos made up an estimated 11 percent of all voters nationwide on Election Day, nearly matching their share of the U.S. eligible voter population.”

Ahead of the elections, groups worked to rally young Hispanic voters, and they saw the difference.

“A lot of times we hear cranky people say ‘Oh, they don’t (vote),’ but for a lot of them, this is their first time voting, said Sarah Audelo, executive director for Alliance for Youth Action, a nationwide network of local organizations that seeks to increase civic engagement among young people.

Image: Young voters
A student hands in her completed mail-in ballot to a poll worker at a busy polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Nov. 6, 2018 in Irvine, California on election day.Robyn Beck / AFP – Getty Images

Audelo had said before elections that the alliance sent groups in the network $1 million to help them organize young people around issues that were most important in their state.

In Pennsylvania, organizations mobilized young people around a campaign for free college tuition. In Ohio, the issue was criminal justice reform. In Montana, it was the use of public lands, and in Florida, private prisons.

Groups in the network such as Chicago Votes started an initiative during the primaries called Parade to the Polls where large groups of young people go together to vote and sometimes provide one another transportation.

Other creative methods used to amp youth registration included MOVE Texas’ poll parties in San Antonio and Forward Montana’s so-called vote goats, where organizers brought goats to voter information and registration tables — as young people petted the animals, they also got information about the upcoming elections.

Other organizations used tools such as social media, texting, town halls, campus pop-ups and more to make sure that millennials and young people in Gen Z, the generation after millennials, showed up on Election Day.

Move Texas helped students fight to extend early voting on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos and to get a polling site on campus.

“I am so grateful for the power of young people,” Drew Galloway, executive director of Move Texas and a millennial, after officials extended the voting and added the poll.

Early voting data in Texas showed that voting by 18- to 29-year-olds rose 500 percent over 2014 and that the age group’s votes made up 11.5 percent of all early votes, up from 5 percent in 2014, said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, which focused on voters under 30 through a program called Texas Rising, that included Battleground Texas and Move Texas.


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