Students from 40 high schools will converge on Union Square this Election Day for a final push to get New Yorkers to the polls.
Local organizers with the national Walkout to Vote campaign have spent the past several weeks marshaling the city’s youngest voters ahead of the midterm elections on Tuesday.
The initiative, run by the newly formed Future Coalition, encourages high school students to leave school on Election Day to exercise their right to vote.
“We want to actually take you to the polls,” said Daphne Frias, a 20-year-old college student and Future Coalition’s lead organizer in New York.
In other areas of the country, lead organizers have been going school to school, enlisting a point person at each institution who is tasked with getting classmates to their polling sites. At 10 a.m. on Election Day, thousands of students in high schools and colleges across the country are expected to walk out of class and head for the polls.
In New York City, public schools are closed for Election Day, which posed an interesting challenge for Frias.
“Because everyone is going to be at their homes, it was a bit harder for me to say, ‘OK everyone meet up here and come to this location,’” she said.
Undaunted, Frias decided to still appoint school leads to disseminate information before Election Day. She also teamed up with the local chapter of March On The Polls and enlisted the help of prominent activist groups like Gays Against Guns to put together a rally and march — literally — to the polls.
“I think organically as we went through the process of organizing we realized that even though school is not in session and there isn’t that sort of invigorating feeling of going against the rules and walking out, there is still pride in taking a deliberate effort to go out and go to the polls and make your voice heard,” Frias said.
Local organizers with the Future Coalition, which is a youth-oriented offshoot of the nonprofit March On, are counting on that sentiment to galvanize their peers.
Historically, the 18- to 29-year-old voting demographic has had low voter turnout for midterm elections. But a new survey released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School suggests this year may be different.
Of those surveyed, 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they will “definitely vote” in the midterms. Citing U.S. Census Data, the IPO survey said the only times midterm voter turnout for that demographic went above 20 percent over the last 32 years was in 1986 and 1994.
Frias said she believes her generation has seen too many injustices in society and decided, “enough is enough.”
“We’re going to do something about it,” she said. “We aren’t ‘Generation Z’ or whatever you may call it. We are ‘Generation Change’ because we are going to take control of our future and we are going to say this is the way we want it to go.”
The Union Square rally, which is open to people of all ages, kicks off at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. There will be a booth for voter pledges, a sign-making station and a voter-registration drive. At 1 p.m., the organizers — clad in capes and crowns — will leave Union Square and lead various groups in different directions to their respective polling stations.
The work is not over after Election Day either, Frias added. The Future Coalition intends to keep America’s youth engaged in the political process.
“Every single day we’re going to be working harder and harder to make sure that the people who have won our votes and who are in office after midterms deserve to be there,” she said.