It’s the electoral equivalent of Waiting for Godot. Every election cycle, pundits and polls predict that this time the youth vote will show up in force. And every cycle, the youth vote reverts to form, with lower turnout numbers and lower engagement.
This cycle might be different, the Washington Post promises, thanks to the Parkland, Florida shooting last year. Gun control has galvanized the youth of America like never before, say the polls. They are just champing at the bit to turn out, says a new Harvard poll and a Democratic Party data firm, and Democrats are spending millions to turn them out:
Throughout the country, there are signs that young Americans like Campbell are taking an unusual level of interest in this year’s midterms, prodded by Democratic groups and nonprofit organizations that have spent millions urging them to see state and congressional elections as outlets to express their views.
The share of 18- to 29-year-old voters who say they will definitely vote has jumped from 26 percent in the run-up to the last midterm election in 2014 to 40 percent this fall, according to a new poll obtained from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. One driving factor: widespread support for government intervention to curb gun violence and reduce college debt and health-care costs. …
“From a civic point of view, they’ve been more engaged” this year, said Guy Cecil, who leads Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC that has inundated social media platforms with ads targeting young voters. “But can we turn their enthusiasm into electoral power?”
The GOP isn’t taking anything for granted. They have also focused their efforts on winning younger voters this cycle, hoping to head off a youth wave at the ballot box — or at least turn it to their advantage:
For their part, Republicans acknowledge that the partisan split among youth does not favor the GOP, but they have not relinquished the demographic. The Republican National Committee launched several programs this cycle to target them, including high school fellowships, campus team leaders at colleges and universities, and leadership summits to recruit young conservatives.
To frame this story, the Post features one young woman at the University of Central Florida who voted absentee already, going Democratic all the way. Unfortunately, as Politico’s John Bresnahan notes, Madison Campbell is one of the few who’ve bothered to show up in early voting at all, even in Florida where the Parkland shooting took place:
From Florida Playbook this morning…. pic.twitter.com/RNTcq3WYdR
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) October 29, 2018
In fact, as of Friday Republicans had maintained an advantage in Florida early voting overall, with two million ballots already cast in the midterms. The Tampa Bay Times calls the blue wave a “mirage”:
As of Friday, 2,037,610 ballots had been counted.
Of that total, 43 percent were cast by Republicans (869,649) and 40 percent by Democrats (808,200). That’s a successful formula for Republicans in Florida, a deep purple state with a long history of tight elections and sluggish Democratic turnouts in midterms.
Independents and minor-party voters cast 17 percent of all ballots through Thursday. Recent polls show that Gillum and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson have sizeable leads over their rivals, Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott respectively, among those voters.
The advantage that Democrats need in early voting to overcome a historical Republican advantage in voting by mail has disappeared. The first weekend of early voting in the largest counties will provide more telltale signs starting Saturday.
A youth vote and a blue wave might still materialize, but thus far it looks more like another cycle of Waiting for Godot.