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The Count #16: Will The Youth Vote Sink Trump?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • Will the youth vote sink Trump?
  • The racist roots of voter suppression.

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THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 4 days until election day.
  • 39 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 45 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 68 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 82 days until inauguration day.

WILL THE YOUTH VOTE SINK TRUMP?

Nearly 80 million people have already voted, and youth voters have made up a higher share of early votes in this cycle than at this point in 2018 or 2016. Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a group working to mobilize younger voters for Democrats, told The Atlantic that it’s “the highest youth turnout since 2008, and maybe since 1992.

A Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18- to 29-year-olds released this week found nearly two-thirds of young voters–significantly more than in 2016–said they would “definitely be voting.” And nearly twice as many young Americans say they’d vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump, while even more likely voters say the same with 63% for Biden to 25% for Trump.

Biden’s campaign has of course been targeting young voters with ads: There were the spots aired during the MTV Video Music Awards, the get out the vote series aimed at young Black men in battleground states, and just this week aired a new animated ad that mocked Trump’s take on climate change on Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.


YOUNG VOTERS ARE DIVERSE, ENGAGED, AND BIGGER THAN EVER

  • THE YOUNG MATCH THE OLD — Crucially, this is the first year that Millennials and Gen Z will equal older generations “as a share of all Americans eligible to vote.”
  • MILLIONS OF VOTES —  24 million Gen Zers are eligible to vote this year, making up 1 in 10 eligible voters.
  • MORE DIVERSITY — Gen Z is set to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, with 45% of them expected to be nonwhite.
  • HIT HARD — At the beginning of the pandemic, more Gen Zers said they or someone in their household had lost their job or taken a pay than any other generation.

Zak Malamed, co-founder and executive director of The Next 50, told The Count that racial justice, environmental justice, and gun violence are motivating youth voter engagement, but that like any voting bloc, consistent engagement is key to increased turnout this year:

“Young people will be invested in the system as much as we’re invested in them … I believe that if we sustain this after this election, we’re looking at perhaps the most engaged, civically engaged, politically engaged generation our country’s ever seen.”


THE RACIST ROOTS OF GOP VOTER SUPPRESSION

Americans’ record early voter turnout is remarkable, but it’s important to remember that no matter the results of 2020, they will come in spite of voter suppression efforts.

“If Donald Trump loses the election, it’s not right to say that voter suppression didn’t work, or that it failed,” said Jay Willis, senior contributor at The Appeal, on The Count. “Millions of people still couldn’t meaningfully exercise their vote in this country. Because Republicans made it harder. That’s a tragedy for democracy, no matter what the election outcome is,” Willis said.

Willis recently wrote about the racist history of voter suppression–from both sides of the aisle–going back nearly 200 years in an article titled, “Trump’s Voter Fraud Lie Is the Oldest Trick in the Book.” These efforts have historically targeted Black Americans the most and the common ingredients, he says, are that: “It’s always strategic. It’s always pushed by people in power, who are afraid of losing that power. And the excuse for doing it is always, always, always voter fraud.”

Here’s a sampling of those efforts:

  • POLL TAXES — In 1871, Georgia launched the first poll tax that required all back taxes to be paid before voters could cast their ballot. This was a burden on sharecroppers who could not afford the taxes or didn’t often deal with cash.  After the poll tax, Black voter turnout was halved. The recent push by Florida’s Republican legislature to make people previously convicted of felonies pay off fines and fees before being able to vote is considered by voting rights advocates to be a poll tax by another name.
  • FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT — In the 15 years after the end of the Civil War, more than a third of the states introduced felony disenfranchisement. Some Southern states targeted crimes thought to be associated with Black Americans, such as burglary and theft, but not crimes like murder. Felony disenfranchisement continues today with more than 6 million people having lost  access to the ballot box; only two states (“the two whitest in the country”) and the District of Columbia never take away voting rights after a felony conviction.
  • LITERACY TESTS — In 1882, South Carolina created a system where ballots for each race had to be cast in eight separate slots. Successfully casting ballots was essentially a literacy test; if ballots were placed in the wrong box they were void but identifying the right box was made difficult for voters that weren’t completely literate. White voters who struggled were aided by poll workers, Black voters were left on their own or were read the wrong information. In 1880, 58,000 Black voters cast a ballot in South Carolina, by 1888, that number had dwindled to less than 14,000.
  • THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 was created to combat these efforts, and required Department of Justice approval for any voting law changes in nine states with a history of voter suppression. However, when key provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, it opened the floodgates to many of today’s suppression tactics.

“As bad as voter suppression is, it’s actually a euphemism for something that’s a lot worse.” — Jay Willis


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The Minneapolis police union asked retired officers to volunteer as “poll challengers” in “problem” areas after a request from an attorney linked to the Trump campaign (the campaign has denied any involvement). City and state officials said the move amounted to voter intimidation.
  • Wisconsin’s Republican party says hackers stole $2.3 million, money put aside for Trump’s reelection efforts in the state.
  • More than 400 “Protect the Results” protests are already being planned around the country if Donald Trump appears to be challenging the count, showing that many are preparing to take to the streets if necessary.
  • How would you redesign ballots to make them easier to use? The New York Times gave it a go.
  • The three critical things elected Democrats must do to stop Trump from stealing the election are laid out here.
  • If Trump clearly loses the election, he will still be president for 77 days with nothing to lose. Here’s a few scenarios of what Trump could do in that time.

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