Young voters aren’t no-shows anymore
Participation near colleges extraordinary
Young voters hit the polls in bigger numbers this past election, particularly in Florida’s largest university towns.
Sixty-two percent of registered voters age 18 to 21 cast ballots in Leon County, home of Florida State University, followed by Alachua County, location of University of Florida, according to an analysis of preliminary voting data by the South
Florida Sun Sentinel.
Turnout was historic
The college-town turnout in those counties and others was extraordinary for young people, who historically have the lowest turnout rates of all age groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 2014 midterms, turnout was less than 20 percent nationwide.
Overall, 36 percent of Florida’s newbie electorate voted, compared with 22 percent from the midterm election four years earlier. The results followed the months-long effort to register more young voters in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre in Parkland that killed 17 people.
After the tragedy, students from Stoneman Douglas and other schools and organizations across
the county rallied to register young voters. The goal was to elect leaders who focus on new laws and regulations aimed at reducing gun violence in America.
College towns did best
The new data from the Florida Division of Elections is preliminary, as counties had until Dec. 20 to finish reporting, which will be reflected in a revision later this month, said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for the agency. In general, the data showed a clear pattern of high turnouts of young voters in counties that are educational centers — Leon and Alachua were higher than the overall state average of 55 percent for all age groups in the preliminary data. (Immediately after the election, the state listed the overall turnout at 62 percent).
Last November was the first time in recent years that early voting was allowed on college campuses. The secretary of state issued
a ban on the practice in 2014, but a federal judge last summer ruled the ban unconstitutional.
South Florida: Not as good
Broward County, where the Parkland shooting occurred, had about one in four young voters turning out, with Palm at one in 10, according to the preliminary numbers. Miami-Dade did better, at 42 percent. The numbers could change as the numbers are finalized. “We counted ballots all the way up until Dec. 20,” said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
Seminole County ranks third
Justin Teaman, chief deputy of operations in Seminole County, which ranked third behind Leon and Alachua in young voter turnout, said it’s possible that South Florida ranked lower because students
here headed north to more popular towns and voted there. The county is home to Seminole State College, which has four campus there. Teaman said his office aggressively registers young voters and encourages them to break the mold of being traditional non-voters.
“That’s part of our presentation when we go to high schools,” Teaman said. “That’s one of the key elements — you guys don’t vote.” In 2017, his office won an international award for its Future Voter Initiative that reaches out to firsttime voters. Young voter turnout in Seminole totaled 42 percent last November, compared with 31 percent in 2014.
Breaking it down further
The numbers of undergraduate-age registered voters is a fraction of Florida’s total — just under 700,000 out of the 13 million total. Even if every one of them had showed up at the
polls, the statewide turnout would have ticked up only a bit, to 58 percent.
Here are a few other findings:
■ While the 36 percent turnout exceeded the 2014 midterms, it didn’t come close to the 57 percent in the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump faced off with Hillary Clinton.
■ Slightly more than half of those turning out were women, about 40 percent men. But the actual breakdown is unclear, because about one in 10 have a gender listed as “unknown” in the state’s voter rolls.
■ Forty-three percent of the voters were registered as Democrats, and 28 percent each for Republicans and No Party Affiliation. The remainder were some other party affiliation.
■ Whites made up 47 percent, Hispanics 20 percent, and blacks 18 percent.
Parkland shooting survivors hold a June news conference, announcing a 20-state tour where they planned to meet with young voters.