Politics & Polls #166: Youth Activism in 2020
Youth-led movements are sweeping the country. Over the past few years, young people have sparked movements to combat issues ranging from gun violence to climate change. These activists have organized protests, occupied state capitol buildings, and encouraged voter registration. And with youth voter turnout at a four-decade high in 2018’s midterm election according to the Census Bureau, young voices may play a critical role in this year’s presidential election.
Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview some of these young political voices in this week’s episode, focusing on their projects, motivations, and hopes for 2020.
ABOUT THE GUESTS
Nick Guthman, Blue Future
Nick Guthman is a co-founder and the executive director of Blue Future, which connects young people to progressive campaigns. The group raised more than $70,000 to support student organizers working on congressional campaigns last year.
Henry Slater, Princeton University Asian American Students Association
Henry Slater is a sophomore at Princeton University. He and others are running voter registration drives on campus with the Asian American Students Association.
Sydney Ward and Hyrum Devenport, Project 320
Sydney Ward is a senior in high school and the founder of Project 320, which connects Utah students with their local reps and works to increase voter registration. Hyrum Devenport is a freshman at Brigham Young University and the community outreach director of Project 320.
Ella Berg, Vote Across America
Ella Berg, a high school senior at Staples High School in Connecticut, runs Vote Across America, which streamlines the voting process not only for Connecticut voters, but voters in every state and U.S. territory.
Natalie Sweet, Zero Hour
Natalie Sweet is a student at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx. She is co-head of Zero Hour, a non-profit organization dedicated to taking action to end climate change.
ABOUT THE HOSTS
Wang is a professor at Princeton University, appointed in neuroscience with affiliate appointments in the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Center for Information Technology Policy. An alumnus of Caltech, where he received a B.S. with honors in physics, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Stanford University School of Medicine. He conducted postdoctoral research at Duke University Medical Center and at Bell Labs Lucent Technologies. He has also worked on science and education policy for the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He is noted for his application of data analytics and poll aggregation to American politics. He is leading an effort at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to build a 50-state data resource for legislative-quality citizen redistricting. His work to define a state-level legal theory to limit partisan gerrymandering recently won Common Cause’s Gerrymandering Standard Writing Contest. His neuroscience research concerns how the brain learns from sensory experience in early life, adulthood and autism.
Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN political analyst. He has written more than 900 op-eds, including his popular weekly column for CNN.com and The Atlantic. This year, he is the distinguished senior fellow at the New York Historical Society, where he is writing a biography of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel for Yale University's Jewish Lives Series. He is the author and editor of more than 19 books including, “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society,” the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. In January 2019, Norton published his new book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.” In spring 2020, Penguin Press will publish his other book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” He has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation and New America.
Speaker 2: Hello and welcome back to politics and polls. I'm Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton university and my colleague and cohost is Sam wan. We are in the year 2020 and the election is underway. Feelings are raw, the tension is deep and it's clear that things are going to heat up quickly and rapidly. The politics is already pretty ugly and it's going to get even uglier. As the campaign heats up at moments, it's going to be easy to lose hope. There's a sense that our politics is broken. The possibility for solving big problems like climate change or gun control or inequality seemed just impossible. We're so dysfunctional, even routine issues like passing a federal budget are often difficult to do, but American democracy always has the capacity to revive itself. And one place we always look to is the next generation.
Speaker 2: So Sam and I started looking around to see what some young people are doing about American politics and we were really amazed by what we found. So we decided to focus an entire episode on different initiatives that young people in high school and college are taking to work on our process. On the issues on the policies that define American democracy. Sam sat down with a number of fascinating young people and talk to them about what they were doing. Our guests include Nick Guthman of blue future. He's the co founder and executive director of blue future, which connects young people to progressive campaigns. Henry Slater of Princeton universities, Asian American students association. He's a sophomore here and he's been running voter registration drives on campus, Sidney ward and hire him. Devin port who run project three 20 Sydney is a senior in high school and hire him as a freshman at Brigham young university and the outreach director for project three 20 which connects Utah students to their local representatives and hopes to increase voter registration.
Speaker 2: Ella Berg, who has created vote across America. Ella is a high school senior at staples high school in Connecticut and she has created this website vote across America, which streamlines the process not only for voters in her own state, but voters in every state in the United States. And we also have Natalie Sweet of zero hour. She's a student at the Horace Mann school in Bronx, in the Bronx, and she's the co-head of zero hour and nonprofit organization dedicated to taking action to end climate change. So sit down and take a listen to what they all had to say. We're on with Nick Guthman, who's co founder
Speaker 3: and the executive director of blue future, an organization that connects young people to progressive campaigns. It's a group that raises money for student organizers working on congressional campaigns. Nick, thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for having me. Happy to be here. So and happy new year. Tell me, so tell me about blue future. Tell me how it started. You and your cofounder. I want to hear about the beginnings of this organization.
Speaker 4: Sure, yeah. Thanks again for having me on the podcast and happy new year. In the wake of 2016 after Donald Trump was elected, I was still in school at American university and got together with some of my friends who were involved actively with the college Democrats, both at American but also friends across the country involved in political organizing. And we sort of started to get together because a lot of our friends who had never been political before were asking us as people who had been involved in politics, even before Donald Trump was elected, our apolitical friends started asking us, well, what can we do? This is not who we thought we were. This is not who we thought our country was. And we want to get involved and do something. So we knew after 2016 that something needed to be done to organize mobilizing people and really reduce barriers to entry for people who wanted to get involved.
Speaker 4: And, and so we started to look at the progressive movement and sort of the landscape of organizations that were focusing on engaging our generation, which, which I would say is both millennials and gen Z. And after getting a good sense of that ecosystem. What we found was that the vast majority of organizations who work with young people are nonpartisan, focused primarily on voter registration and they do terrific work and they need more resources and funding or those organizations are focused on a particular issue. But for young people like ourselves, myself, and there are nine other cofounders of blue future who are all under the age of 24 some of us are still in school, young people like ourselves who wanted to work directly for democratic candidates. There was hardly any resources or organizations that were sort of supporting those types of efforts. So we leaned into that space. We had hundreds of conversations with students and partners across the country and tried to understand how we could add value and how we could design an organization that would serve youth organizers. So ultimately we started blue future because in this moment we believe young people have not only a unique opportunity to shape the course of history, but really we see it as our responsibility to help get our country back on track and elect candidates who will stand up for the values that we all share.
Speaker 3: Well, I'm kind of torn here because you know at some level there's the general civic good that everyone should vote and that people should turn out to vote. And you're describing something that's very much more focused on specific issues and a specific political point of view. So what do you think of like, does that make it easier to mobilize people or harder? Tell me about a, about what it looks like to get a person who's in their, you know, late teens, early twenties to to register and to get involved.
Speaker 4: You know, Accra, we work with students all across the country, 26 different States and we're eager to continue expanding our network of student organizers. And of course it's different from place to place. All politics is local as the saying goes. But what we've found in having so many conversations with students who are trying to get involved, who are doing the work everyday to try and get those folks registered and talking to them about the importance of the campaign is that there are some barriers in the way, specifically for the organizing part. You know, people will get registered to vote for all sorts of reasons and, and those operations are, you know, are, are doing, doing, are moving in the right direction. We actually focus less on the voter registration component and more on the community organizing part. And as I was mentioning, some of the barriers that get in a way, and ultimately the biggest barrier is funding because there's hardly any money in the space for students who want to work for candidates who will then focus on the issues that so many people in this country and particularly young people care about.
Speaker 4: So the main thing we do is provide those resources to unleash campus organizing and we make direct investments in students and trust them to lead their own organizing program. The students that we work with, they work directly with the democratic campaigns locally and get plugged into those operations and deployed to help meet E campaigns, reach their voter contact goals of the campaigns are saying we need to register this group or we need to be knocking in this neighborhood or we need to phone bank to this population. Our students volunteer in that way and we help, you know, make that possible by making grants to students. And the way that the grants work is one part is focused on the stipend so that we're building a movement that's accessible and equitable to all who wants to do this work. Because it's not free. Students as you know, have so many different priorities and they could take a paid internship or they could take a, an unpaid internship on a campaign and we believe that's not right.
Speaker 4: So we pay people to do the work that is building our democracy. And then secondly, the money can be used to get those folks out to the campus phone being a, by paying for pizza or donuts or snacks and turnout increases, you know, in a big way. And there's pizza at a campus event. It's really that simple. Or you know, gas for, for students who are going to knock on doors or even getting a bus or a hotel for students who want to do an trip. So when those barriers are, you know, taken away when people say, Oh, there will be dinner, their lunch will be provided, my ride is free. The buses free, the lodging students and young people, we get it. We know what's at stake, we know how important this, these elections have been able to continue to be and we know it's, it's, it's our job to get involved.
Speaker 3: Yeah. About a year ago we hear hear on politics and polls. We had this political scientists on Nick Carnes who talked about why a, for instance, another demographic white working class. People don't run for office and it's just a simple mechanical thing, which is that they don't have the money, they don't have the time. And it is just tough from a, depending on what your income level is, depending on what your time is to get involved because, and it's interesting to hear about just food and dinner being the thing that moved people. It's not unlike that here on the Princeton campus where you can kind of tell which are the important events cause that's where the, that's where there's food and so there's like, Oh there's food here. So I guess it must be an important event. Tell me what policies do you find? Okay, so okay, so we've established that food's important. Okay. Food, many props to food, but what kinds of policies really move people? Like what is it like in this demographic? Like when you talk to people and try to get students involved or try to try to get people out there, what gets them fired up and willing to actually get out there and do things.
Speaker 4: So again, from place to place, city to city, campaign to campaign. It's going to be different in a students organizing. In Nebraska we'll have different, you know, top issues and the students organizing down in Florida.
Speaker 3: Well, let's pick up, let's pick a place, it can be Nebraska or it can be another place. Let's pick a place to just talk about it.
Speaker 4: So last year we were working with students in Nebraska and you know, they in Nebraska, second congressional district, and there were many different issues that were driving them. But for them, I think one of the big ones was education. And even though when, when we were talking with them, some of the sort of power players, the people who could actually address their top issue, which was specifically about sex education, they saw a power in the congressional candidate who was running, who would meet with them and talk about not only sex education and, and, and improving that in the state of Nebraska, but being, you know, she was willing to be their advocate and try and talk with state, state electeds. And again, they also knew how it connected to the national scene and, and how we need to do more to support and fund public education. The candidate there ended up losing, but by, by only a couple thousand votes. And so to re Brad Ashford.
Speaker 3: Oh, I'm sorry, Carrie Eastman. Right, right, right. Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 4: But we're excited to invest there again and sort of continue to drive impact in those districts because some, some of the more red districts where we work in in 2020 or 2018 excuse me, it's not going to happen in one cycle and we've got to go back and we got it. The team to build that sort of organizing structure.
Speaker 3: It's interesting that you targeted that Nebraska second district just for listeners. That's a swing district. That's a, that's a little bit more Republican than the nation as a whole. But that congressional election was 51 49 for the incumbent, Don bacon, a Republican against the challenger, Kerry Eastman, who I guess you guys were working for. So this leads me to something I was wondering about. If you, if you focus your organizing around campuses yet the points of leverage in national politics or even in state politics are not the same places. So do you have thoughts about how to coordinate where the people are, who you're organizing versus what, where you can get the most impact? How does that work?
Speaker 4: That's a, that's a good question. And, and one of the benefits and value that we see in doing coordinated electorial organizing as opposed to doing independent expenditure work, which you know, is a massive operation within the political landscape as well. Lou feature, all of our work is coordinated. And one of the reasons for that is when our students go knock on doors, they may be working for care Eastman or another democratic congressional candidate. But when they go out their literature, what they're passing out at the doors is from the County democratic party. And it has that from, you know, school board and city council up to in 2020 up to the presidential nominee eventually. And so that information is being relayed to the voters every time our students go out, even if they're primarily focused on the congressional race. And one thing I would say, well well some of the issues of course our state state focused or even city or even focused on obviously a big issue of student debt and that some States are taking initiatives to work on that issue and make higher education more accessible.
Speaker 4: I think the thing that we've found and sort of the message that we share with our students when they are thinking of how to get their campuses involved is that if we want to win on the issues, whether it is racial justice, the climate crisis, gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform, voting rights, equality and LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, the list goes on. We need to be electing leaders up and down the ticket who reflect our values and who will pass laws that can, you know, actually adjust to these issues and to take it nationally, in 2018 we are working out 17 congressional races that flipped from red to blue. Since taking the majority, the house Democrats have passed nearly 400 bills. That would be, that would really improve people's lives in so many different ways from gun violence prevention to democracy reform. And so on.
Speaker 4: Yet those bills are just sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk in the Republican controlled Senate, so we, we tell that story because we know it is a motivating factor for students and students understand sort of have that political analysis that shows we want to win on climate. We want to win on this. We want to win on that. We need champions in Congress, in the state houses at the city council at on the school board who will speak truth to power and who will put forward a vision that we can believe in. Presumably given what you just said, presumably the Senate is a focus for you this fall in 2020 absolutely. Yet we'll be as still remaining focused as well on the house races and maintaining democratic control of the house. Really that's because our model funding without getting too much into election law sort of works better at the congressional level where we can identify a school or a handful of schools within a district and they can be primarily focused on that district as opposed to a statewide program, which would obviously be the case for a senatorial race.
Speaker 4: But we will be overlaying some of the house districts in some of the key sentence States like Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa. But, but yeah, we are optimistic and excited. Get involved on the Senate races. And it sounds like you're quite strategic about what you're going to be targeting this fall. That's interesting. We gotta be, we gotta have the strategy. We got to, you know, we have limited resources, we've got more, we always have more students than we can fully fund. And so we try and understand and figure out where we can drive the most impact and where students have sort of the strongest programs for organizing. You think about state legislatures, so, yeah. And excited. We're really excited in 2019 as I'm sure you knew, there were several state legislative and statewide elections in Virginia and New Jersey, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi. I may have missed one, but we were able to make a smaller investment, but investment nonetheless. And students who are working on the state legislative races in Virginia, the governor's races in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. And what a difference it made, especially in Kentucky where flip the governor's mansion by only a couple thousand votes in the end. And we were actually working with high school students with the high school Democrats of Kentucky who were out there every weekend knocking on doors, having phone banks after school in the classroom, etc.
Speaker 4: So we, we, we see a role for state state legislative work. We know how important it is, again, particularly around some key issues like housing and student debt and things like that. And obviously States can take major strides and climate in absence of federal involvement there. But again, more so for campaign finance reasons, it's a little bit tricky since each state has their own set of laws and how we can spend money and how we need to report that. And so we were able to do it in four States last year, but generally the model works better and is more efficient and is more scalable ultimately, which is our goal now moving into 2020 to scale this important work if we stay focused on the federal election.
Speaker 5: I see. Okay. Well, I was going to say, it seems to me that a, for Progressive's, a Federalist approach of really focusing on individual States could really pay off. I mean just the examples that come to mind immediately are taxes where nine house seats would make the difference between one party and the other party controlling that legislature and also redistricting. And then I noticed that in Kansas it looks like breaking the super majority changing the super majority in in Kansas would just require changing to legislative seats and that would force bipartisanship. And so if one wanted to have bipartisan governance in Kansas, one could get it by by just moving to legislative races. And so, so it just strikes me that that there are many opportunities for people to get what they want at a state level. And it's certainly, I think that conservatives have appreciated, but it strikes me that there are points of leverage that are available at that level.
Speaker 4: Yeah, absolutely. And again by working, we hope by working on the coordinated side of the campaigns when our students are knocking on doors, they are talking about all of the democratic candidates who are running up and down the ticket.
Speaker 5: Okay. Well Nick, thanks for joining us. I really appreciate you spending time with us today.
Speaker 4: Thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
Speaker 5: Okay, so we're on with Henry Slater, who is a Princeton university undergraduate sophomore, which makes him class of 2022 and and Henry is running voter registration drives here at the university with the Asian American students association. Henry, thanks for joining us today. Thanks for having me. So tell me, so here you are, a sophomore year starting to mobilize students. Tell me how you got started in this and, and what y'all are trying to get done.
Speaker 6: Yeah, so I grew up in Tokyo, Japan. So I spent like all of my childhood, not in the United States. So then when I came here for college I was like, wow, I have to figure out how to vote because the 2018 midterms are coming up. And I realized while I was registering to vote that I didn't even know how, how it all worked. I didn't know how long Senate terms were, how long, like how, who was on the ballot each time, things like that. So I sort of like taught it to myself very quickly and time to register to vote for 2018 and at the same time I joined the Asian American students association and last winter I became their policy and service advocate, which put me in charge of all of their voter registration outreach in this during the school year.
Speaker 5: So growing up in Japan, you, I guess you didn't have access to U S civics. Tell me about that a little bit.
Speaker 6: Yeah, no, I mean both of my parents are, they grew up in the States, but I, I was sort of removed from all that. So I went to an international school, but there was no kind of civics or government class. We didn't do the pledge of allegiance. We weren't very like keyed into what was going on here. And I had a very vague understanding of what was going on in 2016 and I knew, you know that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were in the democratic primaries. I knew that she won the nomination and I knew that she lost, but that was about it. I didn't really understand much of the workings of how the primaries worked or who voted when and that other elections were happening on the same day. I didn't know any of that. Wow.
Speaker 5: Yeah, it's mind blowing. Okay, so let's see. So where are you registered to vote yourself? I'm registered to vote in New Jersey. Okay. All right. That's because you now you reside here in Princeton. Is that your reason? I see. All right. And so tell me about what kinds of activities, I mean, you're kind of new to this, but at the same time you've, you've recognized something important here. One thing I should point out to our audience is that compared with other voters, Asian Americans have a substantially lower turnout than, than other us voters. So, and so this seems like a fairly important need. What, what form does your outreach take? Tell me about your voter registration drives, your voter education events.
Speaker 6: Okay, sure. So this is the fourth year that we've partnered with the organization a vote. So APA, for those of you who may not know, stands for Asian and Pacific Islander American. So API a vote is an organization dedicated to increasing civic engagement among the API community. So as a condition of partnering with them, they give us $500 per half. So how they divide the hubs is one half is this entire school year. So they give us $500 to raise a to do conduct these events from last September until the end of this school year. And then the second half is actually much shorter. So it's going to be next fall because there's a lot more that's going to be just going to have to happen leading up to the general election. And to get that money we need to run three voter registration drives, two Ascentis education events and one voter education event per half. So that's kind of the structure we've been following this semester. And so far we've run two two voter registration drives. And then also one voter education event. And at the voter education events we're also registering voters. So it also serves as of another voter registration drive.
Speaker 5: Hmm. And do you do this locally in New Jersey?
Speaker 6: Not so it was just on campus, on campus with, with students
Speaker 5: [inaudible] and then do you register them locally or in their home districts where they, where they, their families live,
Speaker 6: whichever they prefer. So I'm often, they'll say like, Oh like where should I register to vote? And we can't give them an answer. That's something they have to decide. But they're all aware that since they reside in New Jersey they're able to register there. But they can, we can also help them register in their home States and request an absentee ballot.
Speaker 5: Now if you're registering students on campus, then that means that you don't have to worry about certain things. Like for instance, in the Asian American community, in many Asian American communities there's limited English proficiency. And so do these kinds of things come up for you guys?
Speaker 6: Not on campus cause everyone that we're working with, like most of the students have English enough, you know obviously enough English to understand these materials. But one of the things we really do try to work on is sort of increasing the sense of civic engagement and understanding of how things work among API students on campus because they may have family members or no other people in their communities back home who do not have English proficiency.
Speaker 5: What kind of issues do you talk about with the students?
Speaker 6: So at meetings as an, as an organization also we talk about all sorts of things. I'm not limited to politics, but we'd have talked about representation in politics in the media. We also talked about like cultural appropriation, we talked about the Hong Kong protests. Just kind of a range of things about identity, you know, just all of it.
Speaker 5: I see. Have you thought about strategic, I mean registration I if you think about, you know, certainly it's laudable to register students on campus, but you know there are, there's a district really close to here. The third congressional district is represented by Andy Kim who is of Korean descent and you know he won by less than a percentage point in the last election. So facing a really tough reelection. Yeah. So that might be a good district to target. So here it is just a few miles from here. Do you have any capacity for that?
Speaker 6: It's already a lot of effort to conduct these voter registration drives on campus and doing it in like a neighboring districts would be a good idea, but it would take a lot more planning in advance. So it's definitely something we're looking into. But there'll be a lot more people we'd have to coordinate with. We'd have to make sure we're allowed to set up in certain spaces and on-campus, all we have to do is request a space and then we can work on it. So that's definitely something we're considering, but we don't know yet if we will do that.
Speaker 5: Okay. All right. Tell me what else is on your mind as you head into the, I mean here we are ending into a pretty big election year. One third of Senate seats are up. Every seat in the house of representatives is up. We have a few legislatures and number of governorships and of course the presidency. What kinds of issues are you thinking about looking ahead in the months ahead?
Speaker 6: Well, 2020 is, you know, UN lot's going to happen this year because not only is it an election year, as you point up, it's a census year and it only happens once 20 years. Where these two things line up and the census, I'll talk about that briefly because it's also important, not many people are not aware that the citizenship question is no longer on the census because of the controversy around it. A few years ago because the Trump administration moved to habit on the census, but now there is no citizenship question yet. Many people who live in the U S worry about responding to the census because they worry that their immigration status will be compromised by responding to it because not enough information disseminated for them to know that that's unrelated and if they don't respond, then they won't. There won't be an accurate counting of people in each district. And then that determines the congressional districts, which determines how many electoral votes each state has. So that's something we're really working on to census outreach. And in terms of the election,
Speaker 3: how would that work if you're based locally? What, what would that kind of average reach look like?
Speaker 6: Yeah, so I th I think that first it just important to introduce students to the idea of the census and familiarize them. Because this is not something we think about. It happens only every 10 years. 10 years ago we were all like 11 or 12 so now this is the first time that most of us have like been adults during the census. So first it just like making sure people understand what it is, making sure people understand how they're counted. If they live in the university, they'll be counted based on their living quarters. But it's important that they let their family members know how it works so that when the census enumerators come, they know how they will respond. And on April 1st, 2020 which is census day, they will be counted. And then the congressional districts will be apportioned accordingly.
Speaker 3: As I mentioned before, there are issues with both youth turnout and also with Asian-American turnout. Tell me, tell me what kind of information you have available to you.
Speaker 6: Yeah, so according to the Tufts Institute for democracy in higher education among college students, Asian American college students turn up, I'm nearly tripled from 8.5% in 2014 to 26.1% in 2018 and the native Hawaiian Asian American Pacific Islander student turnout, which is a slightly different population, that turnout doubled from 11.2% in 2014 to 24.3% in 2018 and then according to the pure research center, so says Asian-American turnout for everyone from 2014 to 2018 there was a 50% increase from around 27% to 40% and the reality is that even though these are huge gains, these are huge increases, it's still pretty low. It's under 50% among students. It's under 50% among all Asian-Americans, and this is compared to 57.5% for white people, 51 point percent for black people and 40.4% for Hispanic, which is about similar to Asian Americans. And I guess the takeaway is that voter turnout at just really low in general across all populations.
Speaker 5: Well, an off year, elections turn out is often quite low, although I will say that two years ago the, it was actually the highest midterm turnout in I think a hundred years. So at some level these would reflect a increased turnout across the board. Now one thing I always have wondered about is that there seems to be, you know, older voters turnout at high percentages. Younger voters don't turn out. So do you have any thoughts about how to maintain turnout? So here are all these people turning out to vote in an off year and it was, like I said, the highest turnout in a hundred years. Okay. Then what, how do you keep them in the hopper? How do you keep them voting?
Speaker 6: I think it just important to keep building awareness around what's going on. I think in general, people turn to tend to tune in in the months leading up to the election or in the thick of the primary. So 2019 is an off year in term in the sense that there had been no key elections except a few gubernatorial and state legislature races in November, but people have not been keyed in in the same way that they were last year or that they probably will be in the spring as the primaries heat up and also next fall in the months leading up to the general election. So right now, the way I see it, we're laying the groundwork so that people know we exist and that we're a resource and that they know that we're going to continue to run these events so that when people suddenly start paying more attention to it, we're ready to provide them with other resources they need.
Speaker 5: [inaudible] one thing I think about, I do a lot of quantitative election analytics and one thing I think about is a relative amount of leverage for different votes. And I want to come back to the third district and in the house. So here you are registering students who are from around the country. My guess is that your, the number of students who registers in the, I guess in the dozens or if things go well in the hundreds, is that about right? That's about right. Yeah. Okay. So imagine that spread out across the whole country. So certainly you can move the needle to some extent, but you know, you were complaining about how you were saying that it was hard to project force off campus to the third district, but you know, every voter you register there in terms of moving the probability of affecting an outcome is something like 10 a hundred a thousand times the impact of registering a voter on campus. And so rationally, even if it's a hundred times harder to do it in the third district, if you have a hundred times the impact, it's worth the effort. So I just wanted to throw that out there.
Speaker 6: Yeah, and that's definitely true and I think it's going to have to be something we continue to think about. No one in ASA has ever done something like that before, like outreach off campus for registering voters so that if since it hasn't been done before, there's no precedent. So we're gonna keep like working on that and think about we might do that, but I, I hope we can.
Speaker 5: Yeah, I think that'd be a, you know, work but, but I think engaging with engaging with civic advocacy often requires going where the votes are definitely those local groups in town, not students, but like a local activist groups that are projecting, like I said, projecting for us in a sense. One possibility would be to partner with those. Cause I do think that on the university campus there's a tendency to be somewhat inward looking where, you know, we care a lot about what happens on campus. We care about each other about our community. But you know, I've lived in Princeton like obviously a way long time and, and there's like this whole community of surrounding people all around us off campus. And so one possibility, I dunno, I wonder if whether it'd be worthwhile for you all you guys, since you don't have the infrastructure to go registering voters off campus. But they do. And so you can imagine you get in touch with the local organization. Right. And, and that could be one way of, of really leveraging your efforts.
Speaker 6: Definitely. And we could like Rutgers is not too far away either and they probably have a lot more resources than we do. So that could also be something we look at because I think it is tough. When I talk with undergrad army organizations it is tough because you know, there's a tendency, well you know, we know each other getting clubs in the colleges or what have you. And then the difficulty is how to like, you know, exactly. And it's, it's very right now especially, it's like very incremental like how many voters were able to register and it's, it's better than nothing. But you know, as you said, it's, it's better to go to places that each photo has like more of an impact plus where we can get more voters registered at any given time. I feel like it's just hard
Speaker 5: to know when you're moving the needle. I mean like just speaking for myself, if I'm trying to persuade people to vote and I do it in some large population, how do I know that I move the needle? But if I focus on one district or in one community, I feel like I can see what happened and I can and really get some kind of satisfactory tangible return. And I think one thing that's tough is finding ways to get that kind of reinforcement to feel like you made a difference.
Speaker 6: Yeah, definitely. So, yeah, we, I mean, we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially we, the cap Princeton calendar doesn't allow for us to run too much outreach and, and time for the deadlines to register to vote in many of the primaries. So we had to do a lot of those activities in December, but we're still gonna continue to raise a sense census out, re do a census outreach and also some more voter at one or two more voter education events and voter registration drives before the school year finishes. And then then once we get that second chunk of our funding, we'll ramp up our efforts even more in the fall.
Speaker 5: Well, speaking of census, one thing we're doing is I know some students who are developing an application, this is in relation to the Princeton gerrymandering project, which I manage. Those students are, have designed an app that you can read firstname.lastname@example.org and so this is an app to help people report their own communities. So the idea would be that in addition to an accurate census count, communities need to be able to report this is who we are, this is where we live. And so for instance, if there's a community of say South Asians in West Windsor, they might, or in cranberry or or what have you, they may want to actually say, look, this is where we are. We'd like to be represented. And so it's an app to let people draw their own communities and then put it into a database in cloud so it can get then sent to redistrict hers to ensure fair representation. So that's an organization on campus and that might be another place for you guys to connect up with.
Speaker 6: Yeah, and the one organization we've already partnered with, I would say successfully as volt 100 we worked with them on national voter registration day and on that day we got, you know, close to 120 registrations. And since then there have been fewer, but on these days that are dedicated to that. And also like in the months leading up to elections, as I said, people do tend to tune in much more. So. Outstanding. All right, well good luck with your work. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Speaker 5: All right, so we're here with Sydney ward who's a senior at Salem Hills high school in Salem, Utah and Hiram. Devin port who is a freshman at BYU, they are affiliated with project three 20 which I believe was founded by Sidney ward, which connects Utah students with their local representatives and works to increase voter registration, Sydney and Hiram. Welcome.
Speaker 7: Hi. Thanks for having us.
Speaker 5: Pleasure. So let's just talk about basics here. So there you are. In Utah, you've got this, this activist organization to try to engage voters. Why did you decide to start it? Like how did it begin?
Speaker 7: Yeah, so I noticed around the Utah legislative session, there were a lot of buzzworthy bells about gun control, abortion taxes, stuff like that. And they'd get people talking adults and younger people. But then after those 45 days, all political talk would clear it would die down. And the remaining 320 days of the year, it was like the government disappeared. But that's not really what happens when the legislative session is, is out. Representatives were still on call to their constituents and what better time for younger constituents to talk with them. And additionally, younger people in America are the arguably the largest group without an electoral voice in this country. We can't vote so politicians don't bother talking with us. It just isn't worth their time. But that doesn't mean those representatives don't represent us still. They are still accountable for our wellbeing in the legislation that they pass. And so project three 20 was an effort to connect representatives with those younger voices that need to be heard
Speaker 5: and also youth turn out even when people get to be a voting age 18 a youth turnout is low. And so actually this seems like a pretty big job you have ahead of you to organize youth.
Speaker 7: Yeah, for sure.
Speaker 8: Increasing increasing voter rates among young people who are actually able to vote is another one of our big focuses and we think if we're able to acclimate young people to voting before they're actually registered to, then we can increase voter rates among 20 year olds in such a so that as well.
Speaker 5: I see now project three twenty.org I'm reading at your website now, I guess three 20 refers to the number of days of the year that that legislature is not in session. Is that right?
Speaker 7: Yes.
Speaker 5: All right, so you all have a, a bunch of activities, mock elections, voter read strives, talk about the kinds of things you've built there to, to engage in and how did you identify those areas?
Speaker 7: So the mock elections was really where all this started. I've been running them since 2016 before three 20 was officially founded to simulate the experience of voting for high school students. And really it's meant to make it so when people get to the polls as adults, they know what to expect. And so students can get a feel for casting a ballot and get that seed planted in their minds for, for civic engagement before they turn 18 and that program has continued for the last four years, we've had significant participation from students in, in Salem and throughout our district. And it's really been a foundational piece of getting students more involved with local government and state races as well. Yeah.
Speaker 8: And the other thing that we've been working on lately is the local election headquarters, which is a, a web database of different policy platforms that local candidates have. And this came out of the, we realized as we were doing mock elections that young people, especially in a lot of people in general when it comes to local elections don't know the candidates or their goals very well. They just Mark names of whoever they've heard of or whoever their neighbors or whatever. And we think that being able to increase access to information about local candidates would help increase people's ability to actually affect change around them because local elections of course they're extremely important and allowing youth, allowing everyone really to be able to access knowledge about these people I think would be a great goal, which is where the local election headquarters came from I suppose. [inaudible]
Speaker 5: well one thing about local elections is that national politics is actually caught up in this weird unreality zone where where I think Washington D C for most people is quite far away and so these issues either abstract or they get nasty in ways that are, are, are hard to really get excited about. So it feels like local organizing is a good move. Now when you do these mock election at home and come back to that from moment, do you use real voting machines?
Speaker 9: Yeah,
Speaker 7: we use paper ballots. The transition to real voting machines would be incredible. But it's for a lot of students it's really just about being in the booth. So we have little voting screens we set up. We, I voted stickers when we hand out and
Speaker 5: yes, so I should say that there's a Princeton alumni, a woman named Nellie Gore BEYA and she is secretary of state of Rhode Island, far from Utah. And apparently she's got a program in which voting machines when they are not in use get sent around to high schools to be used in elections. And so you might consider getting in touch with boards of elections or local officials just to ask nicely, you know, I don't want to cause trouble here, but I'm just saying, you know, you could think about getting some real voting machines. That'd be kinda cool.
Speaker 7: That's a fantastic idea. Wow. Yes.
Speaker 8: Yeah. Actually yes.
Speaker 5: Now I'm going to bring in a little piece of data here. I'm an, I'm a data guy. A few years ago in the run up to the 2016 election, Scholastic magazine ran a survey of students ofK through 12 kids sort of funding to lump K through 12 on one category. But anyway, let's leave that aside for a moment. But they looked at the demographics and it looks like there's this zone of increasingly democratic candidate preferring States and that includes Utah. And so I think of Utah as being quite conservative. So I wanted wonder if I could get a sense from you about how you view the political culture of conservative Utah and progressive youth.
Speaker 8: Yeah. Utah changing to be more, more progressive and like a very red state has been like something that it's kind of intriguing to me. I think something that is really fueled that is honestly Donald Trump, and I don't want to start anything here, of course, but I don't think a lot of Utahns are especially fond of him.
Speaker 5: Well, he doesn't seem to match old fashioned values that one thinks of, of, you know, rectitude and, and being a good neighbor and so on. And those are things I, that's how I imagine Utah.
Speaker 8: Yeah, I think we're all very loyal to people like Mitt Romney of course, who is the current Utah Senator. And I think the difference of course on a policy level, but also on a personal level between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, their styles of governance are very different. And I think the current Republican party in the current conservative movement isn't really what Utah is looking for. What I say we're totally democratic, sir. We not, no, but I think there, there's a movement here,
Speaker 7: definitely there's a, there's a disconnect I think, between the state Republican party platform and the national. Yeah. And so that's creating a lot of tension within Utah. And then with the uptake in national activism and just the general spirit of civic engagement in Utah, I think there's a, a unique drive to make sure that we're paying attention to the policies that are being passed and things like that. I think that's driving more people towards maybe a more progressive perspective.
Speaker 5: And, and what about people like Evan McMullin? Did he make an impact on your political consciousness last time around?
Speaker 8: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. For me seeing Utah, and I believe it was a Republican when he ran, he's a Republican
Speaker 5: former CIA for people listening CA operative and ran as a third party candidate and did and usually well in Utah.
Speaker 8: Yeah. Yeah. I think seeing Utah respond in such a way to like give ourselves in a way, third party option a way out between two candidates that Utah as a whole is not super fond of. That was not super fun to I think was very interesting to me. And it kind of confirmed the idea that Utah would prefer a different route than where politics is currently going. Well. Oh well that is another question altogether, but we'll see.
Speaker 5: Well it strikes me that Utah might be a place to, to expand. I saw an article about you rank choice voting and it strikes me that it might be a good community for rank choice voting because it's like places like Maine, it's got that element of conservatism, but also that element of wanting good government and that element of, you know, maybe being open to change. And so I'm kind of curious about whether there's a mechanism for rank choice voting there.
Speaker 7: Yes. So in addition to, you know, the, the political history of McMullin and kind of the diversifying of political opinions, Utah is one of the fastest growing States in the nation and has people coming in from all across the country. And then this year, this past election cycle, they piloted rank choice voting in two cities in our County. And it made a difference, I think, in the way that people approached the ballot. And the way that people approached the races. It wasn't so much about, Oh, I'm going to beat out that person or they're going to beat out this other candidate. It was about who would really do the best for the job
Speaker 5: elections and paisan in vineyard, is that right? Or vineyard, I don't know how you all say it out there and yeah. So, so what kinds of things would you like to accomplish in the coming year? I mean, we've got a big presidential election coming up. I would imagine that you, as we're recording this, there's an impeachment vote happening in the house of representatives today and so the news is not idle. You know I just speaking to someone much older than you, I just want to point out that this is like an unusually, the last few years is kind of unusual. I just wanted to mention that and and so it seems like it's pretty action packed year ahead. What, what kinds of things would you like to get done?
Speaker 7: So for this next year we have plans to do another local election headquarters, maybe expanding that to stay offices and running another mock election alongside that for the 2020 cycle. And then really I think our biggest focus is connecting students to their representatives in a cycle, a new cycle like the one we're seeing today. There is so much going on, there's so much to get involved in, so much to have an opinion on and making sure that those opinions aren't just being thrown out in conversation and connecting them with the people who really can make a difference I think is one of our key objectives. So making sure students are having conversations with the representatives to make positive changes in the world is something we're really prioritizing in a year. That's hopefully not going to be super polarizing, but definitely has the potential to,
Speaker 5: yeah. We're in a weird polarized time. Surely it can't get worse than this. Right, right. Help me here. Yeah. Hiram, have you, you're at BYU now has the, what does this kind of activity look like there? Are you, are you doing something like this there?
Speaker 8: We're working on that there, I think. I think one of our main goals for the upcoming year is to continue our expansion to continue to scale our organization and to reach out to other high schools near us and hopefully if the opportunity presents itself to other universities. There's a lot of organizations at BYU that already exist and I think we might be able to work with those organizations and in tandem to to increase engagement there, but I think main focus is working on places that aren't currently engaged and universities tend to be more politically active than high schools in rural areas.
Speaker 5: Right, right. The tough part is really reaching out to underserved communities. That is a challenge. So let's see. So Sydney, you're a senior.
Speaker 7: Yes.
Speaker 5: Plans for continuity. What's going to happen? You're going to graduate.
Speaker 7: I think the biggest thing is, and, and we saw this with the mock election we ran last month, is getting more younger students engaged. So we had volunteers running the voting booths who were all so excited and passionate about getting their friends engaged in getting other students like them to talk about politics and things. And so I think continuing to reach out to students like them and finding the students who are passionate about politics, passionate about student civic engagement and getting them to, to lead these projects going forward and their high schools and in the high school that we come from. And then also expanding and reaching the students who maybe aren't talking about politics right now, but I think through the programs that we're running, maybe discover that they do have opinions that they to share
Speaker 10: and getting them connected with a leadership opportunities to do so.
Speaker 5: Well, you know, I think if you can inspire the next few years of students, that would be a quite a quite a great thing. One thing I should mention, I, you know, I'm into my, one of my pet topics is redistricting and gerrymandering and I have to point out that Utah just passed a form of redistricting reform and, and it seems like that's an opportunity for young voters who, who are more tech savvy frankly than older voters to weigh in. And so that could be a way for you all to, to engage with legislators because it's a thing that might be your superpower, right? With this new advisory commission.
Speaker 11: Right?
Speaker 8: Yeah. I think especially in Utah where the districts have been gerrymandered for so long and I think Utahns have been able to, to sort of show at least by their voting records that we're not content with that. Especially with, I think the election of Ben McAdams in the face of, frankly, Republican gerrymandering has really shown that to me. I think going forward, especially with the bill that with the,
Speaker 5: the initiative that passed
Speaker 8: initiative. Yeah. Thank you. With the initiative that was just passed. I think that's now more obvious than ever and personally I know that I'm going to be getting engaged with this and working to make sure that the state legislature allows these districts to not be gerrymandered to be democratic. And I proved that a lot of young people will be with us on that one. Right.
Speaker 5: Well, I'm going to engage in some self-promotion here and point out that here at Princeton we've got the Princeton gerrymandering project, which is finding ways to use tech to link citizens with redistrict [inaudible] and if you go to one of our projects representable.org then you can learn about a way for citizens to weigh in on their communities to talk back directly to legislators. And so I recommend if you have a moment and also to all our listeners to take a email@example.com and that is my shameless self promotion. I know I was supposed to interview these guys, but like I just thought, you know, I dunno. It's a project we're working on and we're pretty excited about it. So maybe take a look at that.
Speaker 10: Fantastic. All right,
Speaker 5: well listen, thanks a lot for joining us. This has been terrific. I wish you good luck with everything, especially Sydney. You've got about half a year left in high school, so good luck with that.
Speaker 10: Yeah, thank you.
Speaker 5: And, and I'll look forward to being in touch in the future.
Speaker 10: Thanks for joining us. Oh, thank you so much for the opportunity.
Speaker 5: So we're joined by Ella Berg, who is from Westport, Connecticut and is actually visiting campus today. Hello, welcome to Princeton university. Thank you very much. So Ella, you've, you've gotten really engaged in really involved in voter outreach and in election information and your high school senior. So tell me how this started.
Speaker 10: Well, in my sophomore year I interned for my Congressman Jim Himes and I got really to campaigns cause I mostly worked the down ballot and I realized that change tends to happen at a local level, not at a federal level as I thought in say freshman year. So I thought if that's the case, I can actually make a difference even before I can vote. So last year for the 2018 election I made an election primer for my town that that was electronic and it like briefed candidate platforms. Cause I noticed that some of my friends didn't know who our state Senator was or who was running against them. And that seemed to really make a difference. And there were some people who used the links on that page that I made to register to vote cause I included those things which helped inspire the project I did this year.
Speaker 3: I see. And then this year, tell me about that a little bit.
Speaker 10: Well I built a website vote across america.org that consolidates voter information according to state and us territory. I noticed I was a few months before I, I'm sorry, a few months before the election, I was trying to figure out how to preregister to vote in Connecticut. And it took me about 20 minutes but which I'm in that time period. A lot of people might give up. Yes. And then I just, cause I was curious, I looked up some other States and us territories and I noticed it's, it's easy to find out information that applies to the whole country, but it's very hard to find state information, especially you as territory information. So I thought this was a niche that really needed to be filled.
Speaker 3: Wow. Okay. Interesting. Yeah. So tell me, why do you think that, you know, you have a sentiment in there, which I think is interesting that that it's easier to affect things locally, but you, you didn't, you seem a little bit down on national, so I wanna hear about the contrast a little bit in your mind between national, local.
Speaker 10: Sure. I think that national change is extremely important and that's how the very quick decisions that are made that affect your everyday lives happen. Except I think that that change ultimately trickles up. That doesn't make sense, but it, it like makes its way up from the local level in the people who propose the policy and write the policy and the board of educations and that the net that the next town adopts a policy from or in the state Senate. Like in Connecticut last or a few years ago, it was a 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats and so it was very hard to get gun reform passed even with the state Senate. Yeah, sorry. In the state, in the state house, state legislature. Yet it was very hard to get gun reform passed even with Newtown. They got some past but not as much as they would've liked. And now there's a democratic majority after the 2018 election and it's easier to get those things passed. And there are some other States now that have adopted Connecticut gun reform laws and Connecticut to sometimes look to now as the model for that,
Speaker 3: but with a hundred members of the legislature then that the ratio of voters to a legislators is much more favorable. And so you can imagine actually having a relationship with your legislator if you do it locally. Right. For instance, our local assemblyman is a physicist and a, and he helped schoolchildren here in get
Speaker 5: passed a bill to make the bog turtle, the state reptile of New Jersey. And the governor showed up at the elementary school to sign the bill. And so that would be an example of actual really local engagement. Now establishing the bog turtle, you know, it doesn't change the minimum wage, but it is a way in which actual, you know, very young people in this case, elementary school kids could get engaged in the passages legislation.
Speaker 10: That reminds me, sorry that reminds me, the reason that I originally became involved in politics is in middle school my local league of women voters chapter came and told us about the importance of registering to vote and voting and gave us all lollipops and I found the whole thing extremely fascinating. And I think again, middle school is a great age for that because yeah, the lollipop help.
Speaker 5: Sure. Yeah. At what age can one preregistered to vote? 17 in Connecticut. I see. That's interesting. Yeah. One thing that I think is really striking to me, again coming back to your point about national politics, is that national politics is important, but it's really hard to feel like you're moving the needle because both of gridlock in Congress, but also because the country is quite large. And so it strikes me that working at local scale is a really much more effective way to feel like you're making a difference. Because if you can move the needle on, on getting somebody elected, on making yourself heard to a local legislator, you get direct feedback on exactly what you're doing and how your activism or how you're, you know, speaking up for a particular issue can make a difference. And in your example of gun reform, I mean I think it's going to be a long time if ever that there's national legislation regarding gun safety, whereas in Connecticut it's obviously of great salient and local interest. Yeah.
Speaker 10: I think the gum thing is going to be a state by state. A push.
Speaker 5: Yeah. Yeah. Well, one thing that's I think a really big feeling in the last year or two is something I've detected that one might re depending on whether you like conservative or progressive issues. I think at Connecticut one would really focus on what one could call progressive federalism, where previously it used to be that to really make social change, one would focus on the national level through Congress or or federal courts, but whether it be voting rights or increasing the minimum wage or or gun safety, these are issues that I think in blue States like Connecticut, it feels like locally would be the real way to make any kind of real progress. I mean if for example, the, you know we're recording this in early January, the minimum wage has gone up in, in many jurisdictions and something like that, 24 States across the U S the minimum wage is substantially higher than the federal minimum wage. And so it feels like if you want to re reflect local opinion, I mean the conservatives have known this for a long time. Right. And, and, and so what kinds of issues have you discovered? I know either for you or for you know, young voters around you. What kinds of issues do you think move people?
Speaker 10: I think that woman's right to choose actually has moved a lot of people my age, which kind of surprised me because for most of the kids in my school it doesn't affect them yet. I think that goes more to the whole privacy issue, which also has to do with the fact that we live on our phones now. I think that's the reason why that moves young people. In addition, the gunner forum, because a lot of, there's a lot of shootings in schools that really does move people. There was a gun March in my school and there wasn't any other issue that's caused such controversy within my school. Let's see, what else? Probably some people are very avid about lowering the voting age. Like in DC they might do it, lower it to 16 and I think that's more that they want to be able to vote. So I don't think that's, that's not a very long lasting thing. I think that's more of a trend. But
Speaker 5: that's interesting cause you know that I only found this out myself quite recently, that the constitution says that you can't discriminate above the age of 18 but there's nothing in the constitution that prevents setting that voting age lower. So one could conceivably set the voting age in any state to 1617 I don't know. I guess one could set it to 13 if one wanted to, although at some point it's not so obvious. It's a good idea. But the essential challenge in youth voting is getting people to vote in the first place because turnout is so much lower for younger voters than for older voters. And so it strikes me that there is a certain amount of self-selection where if you're not knowledgeable, you're probably not going to go register to vote. Yeah, vegetarian. Right. What are your favorite resources? I mean you've, you've looked into resources for making it easier to register to vote. You just, you said it took you 20 minutes to figure it out and you seem like a pretty knowledgeable person. What have you found that has made it easier to vote out there? Tell me about you. You, you've sent me actually quite a lot of resources. What are your, among your favorites?
Speaker 10: Well this is dependent on where you live because it depends on if you have a very active chapter chapter near you, but the league of women voters tends to have very, very good resources on these things. Both for quick ways to register to vote and especially for upcoming races. Like my league of women voters in my town, they release a primer every year that gives you a rundown on the candidates and that's extremely helpful for very local elections like board of ed because a lot of people just kind of vote the party line when it comes to those things. It seems too trivial, but those are again, that's where change happens. So those are sometimes the most important offices. So the league of women voters definitely. I found that vote.org which is, I'm sorry, I found that vote.org gives a lot of good resources for every single state. The reason that I didn't think it satisfied the need for resources for every state is that first of all, it doesn't cover territories. And also you have to like sign up for emails and, and like promotions from the site. But they will give you links to a lot of things for every state. Those are the ones that I think of right now that are the most useful.
Speaker 5: And I see that you've sent me some other ones. Here's another one, a usa.gov it's kind of a long URL, but a usa.gov/registered-two-vote for a checking or changing your registration. And as you say, [inaudible] voters, which is L wv.org and and then they have lots of local chapters for helping register to vote. Yes, they do. They're in, I believe, every single state. So Connecticut is, so we've talked about local races. Connecticut is not going to be a hotbed. There's not a whole ton of suspense in the presidential election and Connecticut. So do you have thoughts about what would it would take to motivate voters to get out there given that Connecticut has a reputation for being a pretty blue state?
Speaker 10: I think there's a lot of people in Connecticut who can't stand the erosion of democratic norms the way it's happened with Trump in office. And I think that that alone can motivate at least a lot of older voters to get to the polls, even if they know that Trump is going to win. Especially for, I mean, Trump is not going to win, especially for the down-ballot because there's also something going on in 2018 and some years before that where there was a lot of money from Republicans that were trying to turn Connecticut red specifically because of the economically, how do I phrase this? Sorry. Connecticut is kind of going bankrupt. Yeah. They're having some trouble with balancing people moving out of state and taxes. So Republicans were thinking, because they are generally thought of as the party of economics, that they could turn Connecticut red. It didn't work in 2018 but there was a lot of money pouring into the state then, which, which fired people up because they saw like democratic, I mean Republican ads everywhere. So I noticed there's a lot more talk about showing up to the polls among Democrats
Speaker 5: in civics class we, we learn about how laws are supposed to be made and how the branches of government are supposed to interact with one another. That's still taught, right? Yes.
Speaker 10: Although you have to take the class, you don't necessarily, you're not necessarily required to take a class that goes to that level.
Speaker 5: I see. But given what you've learned about how the in the, at the federal level, the branches of government are supposed to work and and what you see in the news, what have you noticed?
Speaker 10: Sorry, what was the, I didn't hear the beginning of the,
Speaker 5: have you noticed a difference between what we've heard or supposed to be the way the branches of government work and what happens in the news in the last few years?
Speaker 10: Yeah, definitely. I think that the news is kind of surprised every time somebody on the federal level does something that's not in the norm for American democracy and our classes are taught that way as well. And I think that, so people are very confused when they look at the news and then they listen to a lesson in their class and they're telling very different stories about how politicians act and the federal government. I had another thing, I don't remember it now.
Speaker 5: Well, one of the difficulties is that many of these rules are not written down. And so since they're not written in statute or in the constitution, it depends on all of us committing to the idea of democracy to make sure that we actually make these institutions work. Right. I'd, I just, for example, we had a, an author and economist Aaron Acemoglu on a couple of months ago who has pointed out that the constitution is just a document and making these things work actually involves people to keep that document alive. And so one thing that has been on my mind very much is exactly how to maintain faith in democratic institutions when these institutions depend on people agreeing. I mean, just for example, you know your side, if your side loses an election, does the other side have a right to govern?
Speaker 10: I think according to democratic norms, yes. Yeah, and I think you have to respect the constitution in order for American democracy to work cause the best politicians are the ones that maintain their principles even when they know that maintaining their principles will mean their side loses. Such as in the 2000 election. I'm not necessarily, I don't necessarily agree with how the 2000 presidential election went down, but I do agree with Joe Lieberman saying that the, the votes that came in late should not have been counted because he's following what the rules are supposed to be. Same with John McCain. He's always been a very principled politician even if I don't agree with all his opinions, so I very much respect him.
Speaker 5: Yeah. One thing that's really difficult right now is a erosion of the rule of law and respecting outcomes even when it doesn't follow a, your own personal preference. And I think that's one thing that's really tough right now in democracy is, is losing sight of these principles that have made democracy work.
Speaker 10: It's very hard to fight denial of facts and denial of democratic norms, especially because the latter is not written into law. Yeah. Tell me your thoughts about voter turnout. Like how's, how's that? Well, okay, why don't you just say we have to say, well, I think that voter turnout is what we should be focusing on right now because if you look at the election in Florida in 2018 Republican voters were actually voting for reform in the election systems at even if Republican politicians are leaning towards restricting voting rights. So we know that even if voting rights are somewhat politicized, the right to vote is not so politicized that we can't like a halt that process. So if we focus on it now and make sure it's still an institution of American democracy and not just something like immigration, another thing to win votes, then we can still say that. Well, the good news is that at some level,
Speaker 5: strange political news of the last few years, it seems to have increased voter engagement with the midterm turnout being the highest in a hundred years. And, and with more people than ever saying there are certain devote in November. So at some level, you know the silver lining in this very, very strange political time is that people are paying more attention. That's true. What do you see ahead between now? I guess we're in January now, in November you'll have graduated from high school, you'll be in college. What are you watching for? How are you going to maintain your involvement between now and November since you're probably going to be moving?
Speaker 10: Well I'm definitely going to be maintaining the site. I think I'm going to add page on like a primary watchlist type thing that just tells people when primaries are and how to get them, whether it's caucus, things like that. I also want to, before I graduate in high school, I want to do something like the league of women voters did in the middle schools cause they don't do that every year and just go down and teach middle schoolers a civics lesson. And then in college, I think there's a lot more opportunities on campus to advance voting rights across the country just because there's a lot more connections. And so I think that'd be very helpful.
Speaker 5: I've just figured out that a, I can get your voting guide if you type, if you go to Google and you type in Ella Berg voting guide, it's the first hit. So that would be for the primer Ella Burges handy voting guide. Is that where you're going to be maintaining your information?
Speaker 10: Probably on the vote across America site. And I am gonna make a primer for the 2020 election.
Speaker 5: Oh, okay. All right. So so we have that. So either vote across America or Ella Burges voting guide, which, which you can get as I said, by using your local search engine. All right, Ella, thanks a lot.
Speaker 10: Thank you very much.
Speaker 5: Joining us now is Natalie Sweet from zero hour and a Natalie has been fighting for climate policy reform as a youth activist working with the organization zero hour for almost three years and has been a major part of a recent climate strike. So Natalie, thank you so much for joining us here.
Speaker 12: Thank you for having me.
Speaker 5: So Natalie, you are, I'm communications director of zero hour and that's a nonprofit organization for to fight climate change. Tell me about zero hour and exactly how it started.
Speaker 12: So we started in 2017 when our founder and Jamie Margolin realized that there was no really youth climate movement despite the very reoccurring problems in her own hometown Seattle. So she got with, she posted something online and say, Hey, does anyone want to start a youth climate March on Washington DC to men national, our confirmed nation's Capitol. And a couple of people responded, but eventually she was able to put together a team, myself included that took on the fight to Washington DC and had a March that following summer of 2018 and Washington DC with sister marches and over 20 other cities. And they marched on DC. There was a youth lobby day as well where we met with Bernie Sanders to talk about climate justice and as well as several other Congress people. And yeah, from that, from then on we've been expanding our organization to be international. We now have chapters in the middle East in Australia right now in India. We have chapters all over the world and what we do basically is expand the fight, the fight for climate justice through policy, through education and through direct action.
Speaker 3: And you've been doing this a, you personally been doing this for a couple of years now?
Speaker 12: Well, I've been involved in the fight for two years. I was involved with the March and so I started in late 2017 when you started doing that at 14 years old. 14 okay. Yeah, we all started. We all started pretty young actually. It's a youth led movement. Jamie started when she was 15 Amy's her own, she was 15 and yeah, most of us, almost all of us are high school and college students. And we're finding because this affects our generation the most, and we believe that by taking a stance as youth, it'll inspire other youth to also step forward and challenge our elected officials.
Speaker 3: I'm just curious, like how old were you or can you remember when you started hearing about climate change as a major factor affecting our world?
Speaker 12: Honestly, I feel like it has been really absence absent from my education personally, especially in elementary school and even in middle school there was no really talk about environmental disaster and absolutely no talk about climate justice. And so I think the first time I really began to see the effects was after hurricane Sandy, which was in my own neighborhood, knocked a bunch of the trees down. But even that was very, that was very calm in what we're seeing right now in other areas around the world. Like the fight for climate justice didn't really start for me from my own experience and from my own stories because I was just never exposed to what climate crisis actually is in my education. And I think a lot of other members of your hour felt that way, that we didn't actually realize what the climate crisis was until we either had a friend or ourselves who experienced some horrible, horrible disaster to their lives. And then that's when we realized, Oh this is something we're hearing about. And I think that that also just like ties in again like our whole focus on climate justice and the education for that. And I mean I didn't really, I again like I just did not hear about it in schools and that was something that also motivated me realizing that more students need to hear about this issue.
Speaker 3: And when you, when you, when your organization motivates youth, do you target legislators or, or other interests like are, do you have specific targets for action that you go after?
Speaker 12: Yeah, I mean a lot of our different actions have specific targets. Definitely legislation is a big target. We've always been working very closely with Capitol Hill and with people who are progressive in the movement. We are a three right now so we don't sponsor so we don't sponsor anyone. But we do support legislation such as the green new deal and we do lobby for, we do lobby against the politicians that aren't taking action right now. We also target corporations because a big misconception that corporations have placed on people and just on everyday people is like the idea of individual responsibility. The idea that Oh, everyone has to like be live a certain way, like go vegan to stop the climate crisis when it's in reality corporation by far produce the most emissions that destroy this planet. And so we target corporation because not only are many of them unethical, I mean there's, there's many, many studies about the concept of environmental racism, which is that corporations often place their factories in waste dumps in low income neighborhoods because they know they can get away with polluting these areas because many people in this area don't have the resources stand up to corporations.
Speaker 12: So we also, we target, we target core corporations a lot, a lot. And this is a big target of one of our specific campaigns getting to the roots. And this is our education campaign. It's a presentation system where we have ambassadors, we have over, we have over a thousand ambassadors and over a hundred cities that go around giving these presentations that talk about the roots of the climate crisis and how climate crisis has been caused and exasperated, exacerbated by things like capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism. And one of our biggest targets in this is corporations because corporations like corporations are actively inhibiting what we need to see in a livable future.
Speaker 3: But what would be the practical way of moving a corporation? I mean, I agree with you that corporations control policies at scale that individuals cannot. So what would be the mechanism of leverage of getting a corporation to change its behavior?
Speaker 12: I think, well a lot of corporations are starting to move in this direction, which is a good thing, but adopting a net zero carbon policy, so by, for example, a lot of corporations are adopting this pause. Like by 2030 we will be net zero missions and this is a big goal that we need to see. Like according to the IPC reports, we do only have pretty much until 2030 to stop the climate crisis. The entirety and this faction is really startling, which is also why we just like as a youth movement, we need big corporations. We need people to have the money to recognize they need to use their power for good. If we want to say the rest of the world
Speaker 3: when I'm, when you follow the presidential campaign, when you listen to these presidential candidates in this year 2020 is there anything you listen for or anything you've, you really noticed when when climate policy comes up?
Speaker 12: Well we noticed that many candidate, many, many candidates actually don't bring up the idea of climate policy or the idea of a climate plan until it's brought to them and then it seems that you, Oh yeah, that's happening. Here's a little thing we got for this, but when we look for in candidates and what we, we hope to see in candidates is sort of the X, like the acceptance and the acknowledgement that the climate crisis is going to be the biggest issue for our generation. And it encompasses everything from healthcare to the refugee crisis to affordable housing. And just seeing the climate crisis being brought into that conversation is something that is really crucial for us. For us, what looks like a president who supports a movement, who supports the fight against the climate crisis. Because our campaigns in many other youth, many other youth organizations from sunrise movements, the U S youth climate truck movement also acknowledged the fact that climate, like the climate crisis encapsulates everything. It exacerbates all issues. And what we need is a president who will recognize this.
Speaker 3: Well, one thing that's peculiar is that if you, you know, the candidates respond to questions from journalists and from the press. And one thing I've noticed really, Oh, that's a little bit peculiar on the democratic side in the debates, is that the debate moderators often do not ask about climate. And so for instance, there was Jay Inslee who the governor of Wiscon, Oh sorry, Washington state who made climate a central part of his platform, but yet it didn't, his candidacy didn't really take off and all kinds of other things get brought up. Like whether it be, you know, healthcare policy obviously and other things, but somehow climate doesn't really get mentioned by journalists. Have you thought about targeting journalists to get them more interested in it?
Speaker 12: We did. We did do targeting actually partnered with the sunrise movement in July in July to lobby outside the Dem, the democratic debate to basically protest the fact that there was no climate do they happening, no climate action. And we were there. We were present too at the climate town hall hosted by CNN in New York city. I was there personally to make, to stand up and say this needs to happen. And that was a good step in the right direction. Having a town hall but still the stops that it takes 11 minutes out, a two hour debate, maybe eight minutes out of a two hour debate to talk about the climate crisis is absurd and this is absurd and this is something that almost all youth actions you can agree on and all these youth groups can agree on is that climate isn't something that can this, the climate crisis isn't something that can be pushed to the side and hope and maybe journalists and reporters are out there. They can open their eyes to this. Like what's happening in Australia right now, the fights by the indigenous people both in Hawaii and by the standing rock tribe against the Dakota access pipeline. Like there are real people fighting for their lives and for basically the lives of all of us. And honestly the fact that this isn't something that takes center stage is very, very something we fight against and something that we promote, take climate, taking the center stage and all of these debates.
Speaker 3: Well it is kind of peculiar to think of an issue so large that encompasses all other issues. I think at some level it's too large for people to grasp at a concrete level because it's easy for me to get mad about, you know, say my privacy on my web browser or on, you know, the cost of my prescription drugs or, or, or what have you or, and not to downplay the importance of those issues, but something that melts the polar ice caps and makes the ocean levels rise on a scale of meters over the next hundred years is so large that it's hard to imagine. And do you, do you find that people are able to, I mean, young people have a reputation of, of, of not being terribly farsighted and yet you're giving a very different feeling that, that you have. You're very aware of what's going to happen in the next hundred years.
Speaker 12: Yeah. So I think something some that then again like that's why we pushed for education because it's hard for people to understand what caused the climate. Correct. Like who should we be targeting? Like who are the people? Like what should change? Should we be making and the answers. Although we should. Yes, if go vegan, obviously only if you can and try to use us single use plastic, those individual actions aren't going to stop the destruction of the planet. And that's why like at zero hour we spread the message about who we're targeting, why we're targeting them and how corporations have really done the most damage because it is easy to be complacent, but it's less even easy to be complacent when you see statistics like Miami, this huge city will be completely underwater in, in less than a hundred years. Like since it's like those are crazy because these are places we live, these are people we love and it's not like these things aren't happening right now. It's not like ultra isn't burning up right now. It's just that this isn't what we see in the movie. This isn't what we see mainstream. And so through our platform zero hour, not only did we promote basically like policy that we're pushing on, but we also do give updates and reminders that this is happening right now and this is what you can do to stop and this is what you can do to stop it.
Speaker 3: What do you see as major priorities? We're heading into 2020 a new year, an election year. What do you see as major priorities I had for your organization and what are, what's on your mind?
Speaker 12: Yeah, so our biggest campaign right now is vote for our future, which is, which is an initiative that specifically targets Midwest and swaves States to basically go out and vote for the climate candidate. We have a very, I, I can't go into much detail now because we're, we're just launching the campaign, but we do have specific advocacy plans in, in different cities that will encourage voter registration that will encourage different people to listen to frontline communities and communities are being most affected by the climate crisis when they vote. And most importantly to make climate the number one voting issue. And that's what we're bringing into the swing of the election because we believe that the only way to make change not well the way we need to make change is through the bottom up is through grassroots to eventually push big action and to get a candidate in place that we know supports our movement and we know we'll fight for climate justice.
Speaker 3: All right, well Natalie, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck with your work in the coming year and coming years.
Speaker 2: Well unfortunately we are out of time but I do want to thank Nick Henry, Sidney, Hiram, Ella and Natalie all for joining our show and telling us about what they're working on. Once again, you can find us on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Spotify and please visit our website politics polls that princeton.edu which has lots of great information, the show archives and contact material for guests and listeners. Thanks for joining us and we'll be back soon on and balls.
Speaker 4: Bye everybody. You've been listening to politics and polls, a podcast series produced by WooCast. This podcast is intended to be informational only and does not reflect, nor represent the views of Princeton university or the Woodrow Wilson school of public and international affairs.