Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Democratic campaigns, both national and local, are focusing their efforts towards millennials in an effort to bolster voter registration and turnout at the polls. Swarthmore College students have opportunities to get involved in both the presidential and Pennsylvania state legislative races as Election Day comes closer.
Philadelphia-based staff members of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign met last week to discuss how to best engage millennial voters. This comes near the start of a new academic year for students across the country, and amidst heated debate between Clinton and Republican Nominee Donald Trump.
Hillary for America Deputy Millennial Vote Director Jamira Burley spoke to around ten staffers in a Philadelphia campaign office. Signs reading “Let’s Make Herstory” and “Estoy Con Ella” [“I’m with her.”] peppered the walls around a semicircular grouping of twelve chairs, and the din of volunteer recruitment calls continued throughout the 45-minute meeting.
Burley works primarily with young people between ages 18 and 35, an important demographic to the Clinton campaign. “Young people are going to surpass baby boomers not just as a voting bloc, but also in spending power, to around $3 trillion in 2020,” she said.
During the meeting, Burley addressed questions and comments on voter registration and the difficulties in balancing registration with efforts to inform young voters and push them to the polls.
“We’re trying to do a collaboration of both informing voters about the issues, talking to people about what’s at stake, but also ensuring that, on November 8, their voices can be heard,” she said.“We want to register, re-register. We want to allow individuals to ask questions about where their voting booth is, as well as to tell them about the issues.”
In light of the concerns staff members raised around criminal justice, access to education, and LGBT rights, Burley addressed the struggles of reaching out to different communities. Effective outreach, she stated, is through direct engagement with voters.
“Us winning this election is not going to be done by the people at headquarters in Brooklyn, or even by one state office. It’s really a collective effort with individuals on the ground, volunteers, [and] staff” Burley said.
To engage specifically with college students, the Clinton campaign is working in both physical and digital arenas. Through social media, the campaign hopes to reach millennial voters and inspire grassroots action. On the ground, organizers at various college campuses in Pennsylvania are preparing to engage students as classes begin. These organizers will coordinate volunteers to register voters, phone bank, and canvas. According to Burley, the campaign will also bring surrogates to speak on issues millennials care about.
Here at Swarthmore, students will have the opportunity to volunteer with the Clinton campaign, in addition to local campaigns, such as State Representative Leanne Krueger-Brankey’s, through weekly phone banks on campus, local canvassing, and other events.
Swarthmore Democrats President and Krueger-Braneky’s Field and Political Director Benjamin Termaat ’18 emphasized the importance of local elections. “They [local officials] really affect your day-to-day life a lot more than someone at the U.S. Senate level, or at the presidential level,” he said.
Krueger-Braneky’s campaign will focus heavily on issues many young people find important, such as the environment and social justice, which they hope will engage Swarthmore students. At the end of the day, according to Termaat, students should cast their ballots based on what they feel passionate about, and not just their feelings about the candidate.
“I just really don’t think that, as someone who cares about social justice, you can in good conscience say, ‘I’m gonna sit this election out,’ or, ‘I’m gonna vote for Jill Stein,’ who has mathematically no chance of winning the election,” Termaat said. “Is Hillary Clinton a flawed candidate? Yes. There are no perfect candidates. Politics is incremental: you have to make incremental steps forward.”
Neither Trump’s campaign nor Delaware County Young Republicans could be reached for comments on their plans to reach out to students and other millennial voters.
Featured image by Jacob Demree/The Daily Gazette.