Florida shoot­ing sur­vivors work to get out young vot­ers

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - NATION - By Kelli Kennedy and Mike Sch­nei­der Kelli Kennedy and Mike Sch­nei­der are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

PARKLAND, Fla. — Nine months af­ter 17 class­mates and teach­ers were gunned down at their Florida school, Parkland stu­dents are fac­ing the mo­ment they’ve been an­tic­i­pat­ing with marches, school walk­outs and voter-reg­is­tra­tion events through­out the coun­try: their first elec­tion day.

The Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School stu­dent ac­tivists set their sights on the 4 mil­lion U.S. cit­i­zens turn­ing 18 this year. They’re hop­ing to coun­ter­act the voter ap­a­thy that’s es­pe­cially preva­lent among young peo­ple dur­ing midterm elec­tions. Many of the ac­tivists, now house­hold names like David Hogg, post­poned col­lege plans to mo­bi­lize young vot­ers. Many of them sup­port gun re­form, in the name of their fallen class­mates.

“It is kind of the cul­mi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing we’ve been work­ing for,” said se­nior Ja­clyn Corin, one of the founders of the March for Our Lives group. “This is truly the mo­ment that young peo­ple are go­ing to make the dif­fer­ence in this coun­try.”

Corin, who voted along with her dad at an early polling site on her 18th birth­day, re­cently vis­ited a half-dozen cities in just a hand­ful of days, get­ting up at 3 a.m. to board planes.

It has been a whirl­wind for the stu­dents, with celebrity sup­port from Oprah Win­frey to Kim Kar­dashian, a Time mag­a­zine cover, late-night TV spots and book deals — but all of it misses their main tar­get un­less it mo­ti­vates young peo­ple to cast bal­lots.

At a Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida event dur­ing the fi­nal week of elec­tion cam­paign­ing, Stone­man Dou­glas grad­u­ate and cur­rent UCF stu­dent Bradley Thorn­ton es­corted fel­low stu­dents to the cam­pus’ early vot­ing site.

UCF stu­dent Tiffany McKel­ton said she wouldn’t have voted if the Parkland ac­tivists hadn’t shown up on cam­pus. “I ac­tu­ally did it be­cause of them,” said McKel­ton, a psy­chol­ogy ma­jor from West Palm Beach.

In the past months they’ve boarded countless buses and planes, passed out T shirts, and hosted bar­be­cues and dance par­ties on col­lege cam­puses around the U.S.

Thorn­ton said talk­ing things through of­ten does the trick.

“I can’t tell you how many con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had that were like, ‘Ah, I’m not in­ter­ested’ ... and through just a sim­ple, really nice cor­dial con­ver­sa­tion, they get this mag­i­cal in­spi­ra­tion to vote,” Thorn­ton said.

The 30-and-younger crowd is more likely to vote in this year’s midterms than in the past. Forty per­cent say they’ll vote, com­pared with just 26 per­cent in 2014, ac­cord­ing to a poll by In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics at Har­vard Univer­sity’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment. They’re be­ing pushed, in part, by a strong dis­ap­proval of Pres­i­dent Trump.

John Raoux / As­so­ci­ated Press

David Hogg (cen­ter), who sur­vived the school shoot­ing in Parkland, Fla., joins a Vote for Our Lives rally Wed­nes­day in Or­lando.

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