Last year I worked with a local political action committee (PAC) to help diversify their organization in the New York Capital Region. A group of older white women had started the PAC after the 2016 presidential election when many women felt let down and upset by the election results. This PAC’s local organizing opened a new world where I could envision similar organizations across the country doing the same work. This is the starting point for change because groups like this one can become a starting point for younger generations to become active in politics. Many organizations like this one exist that help try to increase younger voter participation. However, the work that these organizations do is not fully recognized. Along with this, younger generations are often overlooked when it comes to elections in the US.
The 2022 midterm elections had a higher Gen Z voter turnout than previous elections, with around 29% showing up to vote. However, as the 2024 Presidential election approaches, younger generations, like Gen Z, must find a new way to generate a higher youth voter turnout. Issues like climate change, women’s rights after the Dobbs decision, and gun control have pushed Gen Z to the polls. These issues have created large protests like the women’s march, which resulted directly from former President Trump taking office. In 2017, students organized a nationwide walkout over gun violence after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. However, these movements have not translated into large turnouts for either party. Gen Z loves posting about their political involvement during protests, but many have the attitude that it is not considered “cool” to vote. As a result, they have a weak affiliation to a political party, enabling them to switch parties depending upon the issue. The changing sides back and forth caused problems with a younger demographic turnout. However, younger voters helped carry key swing states like Pennsylvania and Nevada and their narrow wins due to the issues they care about.
There are different perspectives on how younger generations view the government, especially as it relates to world events. Graduating high school at the pandemic’s beginning changed my worldview and the views of others my age. According to Megan Carnegie in her piece for the BBC titled Gen Z: How Young People are Changing Activism, having that instability so visible in the world we had known all our lives changed the perspective of millions of people. When looking at 18–25-year-olds living “through an epidemic such as COVID-19, this group will likely harbor negative attitudes toward the government and elections for a long time after the epidemic is over.” For example, research by the London School of Economics has noticed a pattern with people who experience an epidemic like COVID or SARS holding onto these negative attitudes for many years. While my generation is not strictly connected to either political party due to both parties disappointing them in policy areas, it has caused lower voting rates and switching between parties. The significant letdown on issues like climate change and gun violence, by each party cannot deter us from making changes because it is up to us to make changes with our votes. Following through on the protests will allow us to create sustainable change at the voting booths. This enables us to tell Congress what issues are crucial to their constituents.
The connections between Gen Z and other young voters to political organizations are dissimilar because there is no prominent connection. We are seen as this odd group that is not connected to politics. Increasing the involvement of younger voters with political organizations should change because it would allow for more voices to be heard. It would keep similar organizations like the local PAC going so that they can help impact future generations. Organizations like NOW, When We All Vote, and Fair Fight have tried to reach younger and marginalized voters. All these organizations have created a space where new voters can be reached and show the impact voting has on our country. For example, When We All Vote has brought together organizations, individuals, and brands to increase voter registration and ensure our society is engaged in politics. This engagement happens when organizations bring people together to push for change. In a partisan society like ours, a change must be made to allow everyone to be involved. As we go into the next election, we must encourage more people to get involved in local or national politics. All you need to do is look on social media to see what national organizations are doing in your area or just do an internet search for local or national organizations.
Amelia Risinit, PAC Intern