Student organizers from Students Demand Action reached an important milestone last week, registering over 100,000 voters. Launched earlier this summer, the Students Demand Action “Summer of Action” program prioritized youth voter registration as a way to get young people involved ahead of the upcoming election.  

“[Volunteers] didn’t need to be part of the group, they didn’t need to be near other like-minded students,” said Alanna Miller, a sophomore at Duke University and Students Demand Action National Advisory Board member. “No matter who you are, what you do, you could participate in these actions to help make an impact in your community by registering young people.”

A lead in Student Demand Action’s voter registration work, Miller explained the Summer of Action program consisted of daily actions youth could complete, as well as volunteer opportunities such as hosting virtual voter registration events and phone banking. The Summer of Action was open to students in all 50 states, but the group prioritized Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The 2020 election will be Miller’s second major election cycle; she first voted in the 2018 midterm election. Miller recalled holding voter registration drives on campus for that election. “Two years later, that kind of urgency is even greater,” Miller Said. The group has primarily targeted young people with an expressed interest in addressing gun violence. “We know that young people are going to be the ones to change kind of the tide of this country.”

High school senior Makayla Jordan served as a Summer of Action captain, overseeing voter registration and phone banking. “Registering young voters is a big part of our advocacy,” said Jordan. A member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board, Jordan said the team is motivated to increase youth voter turnout as compared to 2016. “With this year’s election, we plan on having a much higher turnout [because] we have registered so many young voters.”

While not quite voting age, Jordan felt it was important for everyone to show up this election. “I see why it’s super important, so [registering voters] is a win internally,” Jordan said. Jordan shared students were concerned with several issues related to gun violence, including police killings. “It’s important to remember that police violence is gun violence,” Jordan said. “This is a real issue that we’re having in our country with police killing Black and brown people.”

Youth voter turnout has been a focus for several groups this year, with many hoping for a huge increase in youth participation this cycle. A 2019 U.S. census midterm election turnout report showed that turnout for 18 to 29 year olds increased from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018, representing a 79% increase. The University of California and YouGov released a poll last month focusing on California 18 to 24 year olds showing that young people were motivated to vote by current events including this summer’s uprisings.

Miller wants to see this increase continue and encourages youth voters to connect with Students Demand Action to stay informed ahead of the election. “[People can] text ‘future’ to 64433 to check the state of [their voter] registration and make sure everything is good to go,” said Miller. According to Miller, texting 64433 will also give voters information about their polling location and reminders about election dates.

“There was a really big difference in 2018,” said Miller. “We know we’re trending upwards, and we’re doing everything we can to keep it consistent and develop lifelong involvement in politics and lifelong voters.”

Anoa Changa is a journalist and organizer focused on innovating electoral justice coverage. Follow her on Twitter at @thewaywithanoa.