MEMO: UPDATE – NextGen America’s Efforts in the 2018 Midterm Elections

To: NextGen America Allies and Supporters
From: Heather Hargreaves, Executive Director
Date: November 8th, 2018
Re: UPDATE – NextGen America’s Efforts + Historic Youth Turnout in the 2018 Midterm Elections

“NextGen, which is using college-age organizers to rally their peers to the polls, looks to be the biggest and best-funded effort to turn out young people in a midterm election ever. The group operates in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. It could make or break key Senate, House and governor’s races.”
Tom Steyer is Using Adorable Pigs to Get Young People to Vote, Huffington Post, 11/03/18

TOTAL SPEND: $33 million

From taking back the House of Representatives to ousting Republican incumbents like Scott Walker and Dean Heller in Wisconsin and Nevada, young people played an unprecedented role in deciding the outcome of crucial elections across the country. Young voters turned out in record numbers —roughly 31% of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote, the highest level of participation among youth in at least 25 years. In races with hotly contested Governors races like Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin, youth turnout was particularly high, averaging 35%. These numbers are proof that, as the largest eligible voting bloc in the United States, young people have and will continue to take power into their own hands and change our nation’s political landscape. The momentum of the youth vote is building more and more every election, and will continue to increase as young people realize the extent of their potential to transform the government.

As US News and Report noted,“Young adults motivated by social issues and dissatisfied with the Trump administration turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2018 midterms and backed Democratic candidates by historic margins, initial analysis shows.” From California to Iowa to Michigan, young voters also helped send young candidates to Congress, as Katie Hill, Abby Finkenauer, and Haley Stevens claimed victories powered by the support of their peers.

After NextGen’s efforts and unprecedented youth turnout, both the Florida Governor race and Florida Senate race crossed the threshold to trigger an automatic recount effort. NextGen America is committed to ensuring that this process is fair, thorough, and democratic, and is working with the Florida Democratic Party to guarantee that every last vote is counted and that every single Floridian who voted gets a say in Florida’s future. NextGen America staff spent Wednesday and Thursdaytexting and calling voters to check their provisional ballots.

Through a massive field organizing presence, innovative digital campaign, experiment-informed direct mail program, and partnerships with local organizations, NextGen America helped a generation find its political voice this year. While there is still a great deal of important and challenging work ahead of us, the strides we made on Tuesday are the first steps towards building a country that values equality, justice, and opportunity for all.

Turnout By Young Americans Breaks Records
Based on analysis by CIRCLE of the national exit polls, young voter (18-29) turnout reached new heights of 31%, higher than any midterm numbers on record.


Over the course of Election Day, we tracked turnout in over 40 Youth Vote Indicator Precincts, where more than 50% of registered voters are between 18 and 35 years old. In 38 of the 41 youth-dense precincts we tracked, youth turnout surpassed 2014 levels, with turnout looking much closer to presidential levels than normal midterm levels.

Youth turnout skyrocketed and played a decisive role in key House and statewide races across the country. At an East Stroudsburg University precinct, turnout went from 30% in 2014 to 65% in 2018, a jump that helped Susan Wild cross the finish line in PA-07 — a key flip for Democrats. Similarly, at a Michigan State University precinct in competitive MI-08, turnout increased by 30 points over 2014 levels. In Wisconsin, youth turnout surged on college campuses across the state — including in the City of Madison where 93% of registered voters turned out — giving Tony Evers acrucial boost and helping him vanquish Scott Walker. In select places across the country, youth turnout even surpassed 2016 presidential levels, like at Temple University in Philadelphia and at theUniversity of Virginia in Charlottesville. That list is likely to grow as precinct-level results are released.

Young People Showed Up for Progressives
Young people are overwhelmingly progressive, and they show up for candidates who inspire them and share their values. Between the exit polls and the AP-NORC Votecast, the latest estimates show that 18-29 year olds broke for Democrats by a margin of at least 30 points, likely surpassing even Barack Obama’s performance in both 2008 and 2012. In Wisconsin, where Tony Evers ousted Scott Walker by just 1.2 percentage points, young voters supported Evers by a 23-point margin, with some key youth-heavy precincts in Madison voting for Evers by over 80%. In Nevada, young voters supported Rosen over incumbent Senator Dean Heller by 37 points (67% to 30%) and preferred Steve Sisolak to Adam Laxalt by a 31-point margin (62% to 31%).


Unprecedented Victories
On Thursday, young people showed up to the polls to make their voices heard and reject Donald Trump and his Republican allies. The lesson is clear: Democrats win when we work to expand our electorate, invest in young people and people of color, and stand up for our progressive values. NextGen America ran the largest youth organizing program in American history, and in the process we:

  • Flipped the Wisconsin Governorship with record turnout in key counties.

  • Ran the table in Nevada and elected Jacky Rosen, Steve Sisolak, Susie Lee, and Steven Horsford

  • Elected three women to represent Virginia in the House of Representatives (VA-2, VA-7, VA-10).

  • Flipped four Congressional seats in PA and made gains in the state legislature.

  • Elected Gretchen Whitmer as Michigan Governor, alongside Debbie Stabenow, Elissa Slotkin, and Haley Stevens, and passed redistricting reform and automatic voter registration.

  • Elected New Hampshire’s first openly gay Congressman Chris Pappas and flipped both legislative chambers and the Executive Council.

  • Won a crucial Supreme Court seat by electing the Honorable Anita Earls in NC, and broke the Republican super majority in the state legislature.

  • Restored voting rights to over 1.4 million disenfranchised citizens and flipped two Congressional seats in South Florida.

  • Elected Iowa’s first two female US House Representatives, including one of Congress’ youngest.

  • Elected Kyrsten Sinema, the first female Democratic Senator in Arizona history, defended two Arizona Congressional Districts held by Democrats, and flipped AZ-02.

Steps Toward Common-Sense Gun Reform
Young people across the country stood up for common-sense gun reform on Tuesday. Nextgen America partnered with Giffords, Everytown, and Acronym to implement Our Lives, Our Vote across 10 states, AZ, CA, CO, FL, MI, MN, NV, PA, VA, and WI. The Our Lives, Our Vote program empowered high school students to make their voices heard this November, and vote out politicians beholden to the NRA, such as Barbara Comstock, Scott Taylor, Mike Bishop, and Steve Knight. The Our Lives, Our Vote program partnered with local organizations to register 63,273 high school students to vote in person, online, and through mail ahead of the registration deadlines. The program was crucial to flipping 25 Congressional and statewide seats from red to blue.

Victories For Working Families
For Our Future (FOF), a partnership between NextGen America and national labor unions, was the largest independent field operation for the progressive movement in the 2018 cycle. Across 7 states, For Our Future knocked on 8,694,951 doors and held 1,313,878 conversations with voters about the critical issues. Among the races that For Our Future and its partners was involved in, progressives won 18 Congressional districts, 13 of them pickups. For Our Future’s work in the Midwest helped pick up 3 governors races.

Last October, NextGen America, the California Labor Federation, and grassroots organizations launched a joint effort to engage California voters across seven key Congressional districts and build progressive organizing infrastructure in traditionally conservative parts of the state. Through local partners, Uniting California recruited over 5,000 volunteers and had over 425,000 conversations with California voters on the issues they care about — like health care, taxes, education, and clean air and water — to increase turnout and elect progressives across the state. While votes are still being counted, Uniting California has helped flip at least two seats, the 25th Congressional District and the 49th Congressional District, in California.

Fighting For Our Planet
In Nevada, YES on 6 passed with 59% of the vote, bringing the state one step closer to guaranteeing 50% renewable energy by 2030. The YES on 6 campaign included dozens of Nevada businesses, organizations, and advocates who have advocated for renewable energy policy for years. With Question 6, Nevada will stop relying on dirty energy sources and start investing in its solar, wind and geothermal resources. This victory reaffirms that a majority of Americans support more clean energy, more and good-paying jobs and, the right to clean air and water. Earlier this year, NextGen-supported the Clean Energy, Health Michigan campaign, which worked to put clean energy on the ballot, and reached an agreement with the largest utilities in the state, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, for Michigan to commit to a 50% clean energy standard by 2030 – making the state a national leader in cutting emissions.

Through GiveGreen, a partnership between NextGen America, the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, and the National Resources Defense Action Fund, $21,641,256 was raised for progressive climate champions up and down the ballot across the country. GiveGreen was crucial in electing Governors like Gretchen Whitmer, Tony Evers, Steve Sisolak, Michelle Lujan-Grisham, and Tim Walz who will fight for clean air and water and push their states to transition to renewable energy. GiveGreen also helped elect climate champions, like Jon Tester, Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow, Jacky Rosen, Sharice Davids, Colin Allred, and Jason Crow, to stand up against Trump’s reckless agenda in Congress. The program was also instrumental in flipping chambers in Minnesota and Colorado and breaking supermajorities in the North Carolina House and Michigan Senate.

“About that massive effort to mobilize young voters: NextGen America, founded by the billionaire hedge fund manager and liberal mega-donor Tom Steyer, has spent money on an effort to boost youth turnout and, ultimately, elect liberal candidates up and down the ballot. The group says it is putting $33 million into 11 states.” 
— Is this the year young people make history by actually voting? They will if just 1 in 4 cast ballotsThe Inquirer, 11/03/18


NextGen America
Founded originally as NextGen Climate by businessperson and philanthropist Tom Steyer in 2013, NextGen America acts politically to prevent climate disaster, promote prosperity, and protect the fundamental rights of every American.