Advertisement
  1. The Buzz

Young voters actually did rock Florida’s vote in 2018

Newly released data reveals that young Florida voters did hit the polls at a significantly higher rate — 15 percentage points more — compared with the previous midterm election.
Safiyyah Ameer, 14, Blake freshman and march organizer, chants in front of a group of hundreds of students and community activists marching to address the inaction of lawmakers when it comes to gun violence, on February 23, 2018 in Tampa, Fla. The group marched from Blake High School to Curtis Hixon park. The protest was held in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people.
Published Jan. 24

They rallied hundreds of thousands to march for gun reform, landed on the cover of Time magazine and raised millions of dollars from celebrities like Oprah and George Clooney. But could the teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting actually motivate unpredictable young voters to cast their ballots?

Newly released data reveals that young Florida voters did hit the polls at a significantly higher rate — 15 percentage points more — compared with the previous midterm election. About 37 percent of the state’s 18- to 29-year-olds voted in November, compared with 22 percent who voted in 2014. That’s especially notable for midterm elections when turnout is typically low.

“Turnout was up across the board; it was up at a higher rate among younger voters without question,” said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who analyzed voter data released by Florida’s Department of State last week.

Preliminary exit polls and widespread media attention for the March For Our Lives movement launched after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had suggested high turnout among young voters passionate about gun reform. The teenage founders of the organization reached celebrity status, making appearances on late night TV, earning the International Children’s Peace Prize and publicly taking on the National Rifle Association and lawmakers they felt were beholden to the group.

Counties with large numbers of college students had particularly impressive turnouts, with 49 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds voting in Leon County, home to Florida State University, and 46.5 percent casting ballots in University of Florida’s Alachua County. Nearly 40 percent of that age group voted in Parkland’s Broward County and 39 percent in neighboring Miami-Dade County, according to Smith’s analysis.

The March For Our Lives activists held town halls with lawmakers, started clubs in schools nationwide and visited 24 states in 60 days over the summer to spread their message and encourage people to vote.

“We really saw this huge cultural shift around elections and civic engagement,” said Brendan Duff, one of the group’s founders, who skipped his fall semester at college to help mobilize young voters. “Even though we had all this support and encouragement, ... it still was kind of like: Will young people actually show up? So just to hear that we had this significant increase is surreal.”

Not surprisingly, the 65-and-older demographic was still twice as likely as 22- to 25-year-olds to vote in Florida. About 73 percent of seniors cast ballots, according to Smith’s analysis.

And slightly more Republicans turned out among the 8.3 million Floridians who voted on a ballot that included contentious races for governor and a U.S. Senate seat, both so close they required recounts that ended in Republican winners.

Young African-Americans were especially energized, likely because of the closely watched gubernatorial race involving Democratic Andrew Gillum, who would have been Florida’s first black governor. Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis won that race.

Just over 38 percent of black voters between the ages of 18 and 21 showed up at the polls, compared with 37.4 percent of young white voters and 33.5 percent of Hispanics.

Delaney Tarr, 18, a first-time voter and one of the founders of March For Our Lives, spent her summer urging young people to vote and said her group drew “a lot of counterprotesters” as well as critics who said young people would never make a difference in high stakes politics.

The March For Our Lives organization did not endorse candidates or political parties, but repeatedly criticized Republican politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio and others who supported the NRA.

Tarr said it can be “disheartening to not see every success you want,” but counted it as a victory to have such a close election.

“To have people going out there and actually voting in numbers that are so close ... we are seeing history in the making and it’s all due to young power, to collective grass roots organizing.”

Only a handful of states have certified election results, so it’s unclear how the youth vote played out nationally, but early exit polls showed gun reform was a key issue on voters’ minds.

According to The Associated Press’ national VoteCast survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, 62 percent of voters said they want to see gun laws made more strict, compared with 8 percent who think they should be less strict; another 29 percent think gun laws should be left as they are. Nearly three quarters — 72 percent — of voters ages 18 to 24 said gun laws should be made more strict.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tallahassee Mayor and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talks with reporters before addressing a group of gay and lesbian Democrats in Tallahassee on Aug. 19. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)
    Gillum accused Florida’s Republican governor of “routine” voter suppression.
  2. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to reporters in Tampa on Aug. 21. Delays in his filling vacancies on the state's five water management district boards have twice led to those agencies canceling meetings to levy taxes and set budgets, which one expert said was unprecedented. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Vacancies lead to canceling two agencies’ budget meetings.
  3. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  4. Richard Swearingen, Florida's Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement, testifies before state lawmakers on Monday. Florida Channel
    But law enforcement officials are getting behind a “threat assessment system.”
  5. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  6. The Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. JOE RAEDLE  |  Getty Images
    It wasn’t immediately clear how much Mar-a-Lago would charge to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball — or even if it might do so for free.
  7. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  8. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  9. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  10. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement