Youth Voter Groups Won't Rest After WI Supreme Court Race
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Early data show young voters were a driving force in last week's Wisconsin Supreme Court election, and civic engagement groups said they are not done with outreach efforts, suggesting younger generations are ready to be vocal about a range of issues.
The outcome of the judicial race means the balance of the state's high court will favor liberals. Matters such as abortion access were considered key factors in the election.
Cendi Tena, co-executive director of the multiracial group Leaders Igniting Transformation, said they knocked on 60,000 doors in Milwaukee, as well as La Crosse, which is home to a University of Wisconsin campus.
"We also focused on ZIP codes that have the highest amount of young voters but the lowest amount of voter turnout," Tena recounted. "Understanding that those people are often the ones that are closest to the issues that we're working on, and most organizations aren't reaching out to them."
Tena noted abortion access and fair election maps consistently came up during their canvassing. She pointed out that similar to other generations, issues such as cost of living are a big concern among young voters.
Meanwhile, the group NextGen America cited as an example of higher turnout was a polling location for University of Wisconsin-Madison freshmen, going from 44 votes cast in 2019, to more than 500 this year.
Tena emphasized while her group engages with young voters on certain issues, they are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates. Instead, they work year-round to ensure high school and college-age students are aware of what is happening for all levels of government.
"We don't just focus on major elections like the presidential or gubernatorial, but also school board races," Tena observed. "Understanding that local elected officials also have a lot of power in what happens in our schools and neighborhoods."
Tena stressed younger generations are not tuning out broader political events happening around them, pointing to the response to the expulsion of two Black lawmakers in the Tennessee Legislature. She argued they are being inspired to act.
"These are the same people who have lived through so much trauma and many tragedies as well, so I don't think that this is something that's going to scare them away," Tena contended.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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