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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Young Women a Pivotal Constituency for Midterms

In “Will ‘Dobbs’ Drive Young People to the Polls?,” Madeline Rosenberg writes at The American Prospect:

Vote.org, a nonpartisan voting registration site, reported a roughly 1,000 percent increase in Kansas voter registrations on its site immediately following the Dobbs decision in June, as well as registration spikes of 500 percent or more in ten other states. About 81 percent of people who register on the site, where a large percentage of users are women under age 35, also turn out to vote, according to Vote.org’s Andrea Hailey.

“To see almost twice as much voter turnout compared to the prediction, I have to believe young people played a role in that,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Tufts University’s CIRCLE, which tracks youth civic education and engagement.

Though voters ages 18 to 35 comprise one of the largest voting blocs in the country, they have historically turned out in lower numbers compared to older Americans. But in a post-Roe era of abortion bans and threats to other forms of reproductive health care, including birth control and IVF, Kansas may be an indicator of what’s to come, as young people are mobilizing their peers and registering to vote in higher numbers because this issue affects them personally…A July Voters of Tomorrow poll surveying young adults ages 18 to 29 found that “the data is clear: young people fear for their future,” listing gun violence and abortion as top concerns.

It makes perfect sense that women of child-bearing age would be disproportionately energized to vote in midterms as a result of the Dobbs decision, and that their partners would agree with them. Looking towards the near future, Rosenberg outlines some of the challenges facing Democrats:

Polling that predicts young people are energized to vote ahead of the midterms comes after 2018 already saw historic youth voter turnout. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake explained that voters who cast their ballots in a midterm for the first time in 2018 are among those planning to vote again this cycle. “We just need to get all of the young people who turned out in 2018 and had no previous midterm history to vote again, and we will win,” Lake said.

There’s also time before November for campaigns and candidates to reach young people who didn’t vote in 2018. In half of the states, youth voter registration was lower in June than it was at the same point in 2018, particularly for newly eligible 18- and 19-year-olds, according to polling from Tufts CIRCLE.

….But getting people registered remains a major barrier to voting—and the subject of voter suppression efforts in some states. Since the uptick in youth voter turnout in 2018, at least 18 states have passed 30 laws that make it harder to vote, and introduced more than 400 bills that restrict voting access.

Democratic ad strategy and outreach should more energetically target this age demographic, which has now become a pivotal concern for the midterm elections. It’s important also to tailor messaging to resonate with moderate and even conservative young voters (“Republican candidates are meddling in your most personal decisions”), as well as more liberal young voters (‘choice in family planning is a central human right’).

With the Dobbs decision, Republican judicial appointees have given the Democrats a cutting edge issue that will swing some young women voters and their partners towards voting Democratic and make others stay home instead of voting Republican. Republicans will try to drown out abortion protests by hammering inflation fears — that is already underway. But Democrats must remind the public — moderates as well as liberals — that it was exclusively Republican-appointed justices, supported by Republican elected officials, who took away their family planning options and created this mess.

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