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How first-time voters are being mobilized in Florida

The 2018 midterms mark the first time most of those born in the year 2000 can vote in a national election. The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab's Mason Berger reports on how organizations in Florida are trying to mobilize young voters around issues like the cost of college and gun violence.

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  • MASON BERGER:

    For the first time, individuals born in the year 2000 are going to be able to vote in a national election. Valentina Pope is one of them.

  • VALENTINA POPE:

    I would always go with my Mom to the voting booth and they'd let me sit there with her and I'd kinda see what the process is like and that's kinda motivated me to register to vote and to actually go to the polls.

  • MASON BERGER:

    Organizations like NextGen America, an environmental advocacy group founded by Billionaire Tom Steyer, hope that Valentina represents a trend. NextGen has spent millions in Florida to register young voters and promote Democratic candidates. Wyatt Robinson leads a team that has registered more than 800 voters at events like this one at Florida Atlantic University.

  • WYATT ROBINSON:

    Our biggest strategy is just meeting young people where they spend the majority of their time. We're operating on college campuses we're going into their classrooms and talking with them and we're going into their club meetings.

  • MASON BERGER:

    Next Gen isn't the only organization operating on college campuses. In a statement, Florida Federation of Young Republicans Chairperson Robert Foster told us the organization "entered into an unprecedented partnership with the Florida Federation of College Republicans to register millennials to get out the vote for Republican candidates all over Florida." They registered or changed the party of about 750 young people at 9 universities.

    Jim Defede is an investigative reporter with local station CBS 4 Miami. He's covered Florida politics since 1991

  • JIM DEFEDE:

    I think generally everytime an election rolls around we start talking about whether or not young people are going to turn out to vote. We get excited by the prospect but more times than not, they turn out to not actually turn out on election day. This year though could be different, and I think the deciding factor is really the Parkland tragedy. It has motivated young people in a way that we haven't seen since the 60s and 70s.

  • MASON BERGER:

    Past elections have seen pretty low turnout for 18-24 year olds. According to US Census Data, just 17 percent of them voted in the 2014 midterms compared to 48 percent of those 30 and older.

  • FIRST-TIME VOTER:

    I'm excited to actually be able to take part in voting for the election instead of just learning about it in all of my government classes that I've taken throughout time

  • FIRST-TIME VOTER:

    Having the ability to really grasp what your vote actually does, that in itself is just an incredible thing to think about

  • WYATT ROBINSON:

    The issues that are most important to them are access to affordable healthcare, gun rights, and cost of college is a big one. And then also racial equality and all of these issues that sort of transcend the typical political partisan. Young people aren't saying that they care about what one party stands for or the other, but they just have this ideal that they wanna create a better world

  • MASON BERGER:

    The Florida Federation of Young Republicans is also looking towards issues like the cost of college, stating quote "the Democrats' failed federal takeover of student loans is… crippling us with debt".

    The big question is whether these group's work will pay off come November 6th, whether students will make their way from the classrooms to the polls. This year, according to the Florida Division of Elections, voter registration groups like Next Gen and the Florida Federation of Young Republicans accounted for the second most common method of getting new voters to register, behind the DMV.

  • JIM DEFEDE:

    I think from the Democratic party standpoint, without young people, they're going to lose this election. They know that. Especially here in Florida. I think this is the key for their victory here in a number of congressional races as well as in statewide races like the governor, attorney general, all the way down the ballot. That's going to be telling.

  • WYATT ROBINSON:

    If young people don't have their voice heard now while they are young then the future we are going to live in to will not fit us and the ideas we care about.

  • VALENTINA POPE:

    I think that every vote matters and especially in this election we need to get our voices heard

  • MASON BERGER:

    For the PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs, I'm Mason Berger.

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