Billionaire’s political organization registering voters to help Gillum
Some were attracted by the pizza. One was motivated by regret over not voting in 2016. And many walked or skateboarded by — ignoring overtures to become registered voters in time for the 2018 midterm elections.
Volunteers and paid staff from NextGen America, have been on 40 Florida college and university campuses this fall, encouraging students to register to vote. On Tuesday, they were on multiple campuses with events for National Voter Registration Day, targeting potential voters who — if they actually show up at the polls — are likely to vote for Democratic candidates favored by NextGen and its billionaire backer, Tom Steyer.
“We want to use the power of the youth vote in order to go out and vote for candidates that represent us best,” Wyatt Robinson, NextGen’s regional organizing director for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, told about 50 politically active students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“We don’t want to have what happened in 2016 happen again,” he said. “If we participate in the system, rather than pulling away from it … we can make our voice be heard, and we can create the future that we have been sitting around waiting for.”
Outside, most students walked or rushed by the NextGen encampment, impervious to clipboard-holding volunteers asking if they were registered. The deadline is Oct. 9.
Others stopped, with a few writing while they swayed back and forth to stay balanced on their skateboards while completing Beth Wiegard, mother of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzales, hosts a voter registration drive at the Parkland Library in 2016 as part of National Voter Registration Day.
and signing the paperwork.
NextGen registered 70 people at FAU on Tuesday, out of a total of 300 in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and 1,200 statewide.
Tyler Stephen, 21, an FAU business management major from Miramar, filled out his voter registration form despite a broken finger on his writing hand.
He said he is certain he’ll vote in November, as a resident of Palm Beach County.
Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, where U.S. citizens like Stephen can’t vote for president, he didn’t realize he could have voted for president when he became a resident of the mainland U.S. “I regret it. I didn’t think I could,” he said. “If I knew, I would have.”
Stephen said he wants to be part of change he believes is coming. “Our country is going in a new direction,” he said, adding some praise for Democrat Andrew Gillum. “It would be nice if we elected our first African-American Florida governor.”
The Democratic nominee is a top priority for
NextGen and Steyer.
They were among the few prominent backers of Gillum’s candidacy when most big donors and prominent Democrats were supporting other candidates for the party’s nomination. Steyer provided money for advertising and staffers for door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods.
Though NextGen America is active in 11 states, Steyer’s involvement in the primary was unusual. He endorsed Gillum in Florida and one of the U.S. Senate candidates in his home state of California.
For the general election, NextGen is ramping up efforts in Florida. On Wednesday, Steyer announced his organization is spending $5.2 million in the state to help Gillum, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other Florida Democrats.
The spending includes
$2.5 million for digital ads,
$800,000 for mail advertising, $700,000 on NextGen’s field program and $1 million for the political group For Our Future Florida’s field program. It also unveiled its first general election digital ad, “Forward with Gillum.”