“That’s a really invigorating number. I mean, damn, that’s awesome.”
“If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote,” former U.S. president Barack Obama said at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, “not just for a president, but for mayors and sheriffs and state’s attorneys and state legislators.”
Two years later, that message still rings true — and in 2018 young people across the country may be starting to take on the mantle of representative democracy for themselves.
As hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world marched for gun reform, at least 4,800 young people — and perhaps many more — registered to vote at marches across the country, NBC News reports.
Voter advocacy groups present at the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., New York City, and other major US cities included HeadCount, League of Women Voters, and Rock the Vote, according to the NBC News report.
Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesperson for HeadCount told NBC that as of Sunday 4,800 people had registered to vote at or after the nationwide rallies, with others expected to return their voter registration forms in the coming week.
“That’s a really invigorating number,” Ghitelman told NBC. “I mean, damn, that’s awesome.”
The organization, Mic reports, sent volunteers to 30 cities across the country.
“This was the No. 1 day in our history, by a wide margin. Nothing else was even close,” HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein said Sunday.
The record voter registration at the March For Our Lives is another sign that young Americans are taking their political futures into their own hands, not only through marching and school walkouts, but also through the ballot box.
Youth voter turnout has traditionally lagged behind other demographics. Just under 45% of voters aged 18-29 went to the polls in 2016, compared to more than 70% of voters over 60, according to the United States Elections Project, which uses statistics from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
Youth voter turnout in the United States peaked in 2008, according to the Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). That year, 52% of voters aged 18-29 went to the polls in Obama’s historic election.
Low voter turnout in democratic countries is nothing new — and is not relegated to the United States. Around the world, voter turnout has declined more than 10% in the past 25 years, Quartz reports.
But going to the polls is critical to ensure the 16th Global Goal for Sustainable Development: peace, justice, and strong institutions.
The participation of young people in the March For Our Lives, and the record numbers of voter signups, shows that the trend of low voter turnout is not irreversible.
“The engagement has really increased and I think it’s an awareness,” Diane Burrows, a vice president of the League of Women Voters in New York, told NBC.
“People are really understanding the power of the vote and that’s what’s really motivating a lot of them,” she added. “They’re figuring out the importance and power of civic engagement.”