Progressive group reports 21 percentage point increase in youth voter turnout in last year’s midterms

"I Voted" stickers spread out on a table at a polling place in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Forty-one percent of Virginia voters ages 18-35 voted in last year’s midterm elections, a 21 percentage point jump from the 2014 midterms.

NextGen, a national progressive organization that works on voter outreach and registration, said in an analysis of the recently released voter file it registered more than 20,000 young voters last year on 25 college campuses. NextGen’s efforts in 2017 prompted a change to state law in 2018 to protect college students’ contact information.

“It speaks a lot to what happened across the country,” said Carter Black, state director for NextGen Virginia. “Young people are really fired up and participating in elections in a way they really haven’t before.”

The national organization is funded by billionaire Tom Steyer and is not shy about turning out voters in support of Democratic candidates. Young and minority voters are key to that, NextGen said in its report, so the group also focused its efforts at historically black campuses in the state and community colleges with large minority populations.

At Hampton University, 64 percent of students registered by NextGen turned out to vote in the tight race between Democrat Elaine Luria, Republican Scott Taylor and independent Shaun Brown.

At Virginia Union University, 46 percent of people registered by NextGen showed up in the less competitive race between Democratic incumbent Donald McEachin, Republican challenger Ryan Adams and independent Pete Wells.

Black said the organization plans to continue its work in 2019 and has a goal of registering 12,000 young voters before General Assembly elections in November.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the increase in voting by young voters. It is a 21 percentage point increase. 

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach.