Nex­tGen Wis­con­sin in full swing

Wisconsin Gazette - - Spot­light - — Louis Weis­berg

For the first time, in the Novem­ber elec­tion, young peo­ple will com­prise the largest el­i­gi­ble vot­ing bloc, and Nex­tGen Amer­ica, a voter reg­is­tra­tion and en­gage­ment group, is run­ning the largest youth or­ga­niz­ing ef­fort in U.S. his­tory.

As stu­dents ar­rived on cam­puses, Nex­tGen Amer­ica staff and vol­un­teers were there to reg­is­ter and en­cour­age them to vote in Novem­ber. The group planned to reg­is­ter 100,000 stu­dents na­tion­ally dur­ing the early weeks of the aca­demic year alone, and it will con­tinue a mas­sive ef­fort to reg­is­ter and en­gage vot­ers right up to the dead­line for the Nov. 6 elec­tions.

Nex­tGen is backed by Tom Steyer, a bil­lion­aire hedge fund man­ager and activist. Be­gun in 2014 as Nex­tGen Cli­mate, the group ed­u­cated young vot­ers about cli­mate change and ral­lied them to sup­port proen­vi­ron­ment can­di­dates.

But after Hil­lary Clin­ton's loss, Nex­tGen's mis­sion was broad­ened to fo­cus on reg­is­ter­ing and get­ting young peo­ple to the polls.

“Young peo­ple are over­whelm­ingly pro­gres­sive and ready to fight back against the Trump agenda,” said Sean Man­ning, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Nex­tGen Wis­con­sin. “We're go­ing to make sure that we have record high youth turnout in Novem­ber.”

Nex­tGen has a siz­able pres­ence in Wis­con­sin, which is among the most crit­i­cal swing states in the up­com­ing elec­tions. The goal is to ob­tain pledges to vote from 27,000 young Wis­con­sinites. Pro­pelled by school shoot­ings as well as Repub­li­can at­tacks on women and mi­nori­ties, youth reg­is­tra­tion al­ready is surg­ing, ac­cord­ing to Man­ning. Since last year, Nex­tGen has fo­cused on reg­is­ter­ing, en­gag­ing and mo­bi­liz­ing young peo­ple in 11 states.

In Wis­con­sin, about 80 vol­un­teers are en­gag­ing with young peo­ple face to face, of­fer­ing to help guide them through the some­times-con­fus­ing voter reg­is­tra­tion rules that Repub­li­cans en­acted to de­ter them from cast­ing bal­lots.

For the spring Wis­con­sin Supreme Court elec­tion, Nex­tGen helped to mo­bi­lize 18- to 35-year-olds through dig­i­tal ads and can­vass­ing door to door. Man­ning be­lieves the ef­fort con­trib­uted to Supreme Court Jus­tice Re­becca Dal­let's solid de­feat of a right-wing Repub­li­can hand­picked by Scott Walker.

In the run-up to Nov. 6, Nex­tGen vol­un­teers will be spread out over 35 cam­puses in the state, in­clud­ing six com­mu­nity col­leges. Nex­tGen Wis­con­sin is part­ner­ing with Lead­ers Ig­nit­ing Trans­for­ma­tion, Planned Par­ent­hood Ad­vo­cates of Wis­con­sin and For Our Fu­ture.

In ad­di­tion to the old-fash­ioned cam­paign tac­tic of knock­ing on doors, Nex­tGen will uti­lize print ad­ver­tis­ing on cam­puses, as well as dig­i­tal tools such as Face­book and SnapChat. Vol­un­teers will be able to reg­is­ter vot­ers on tablets, mak­ing the process faster and eas­ier.

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