Voter registration ticks up in Pennsylvania as groups target young people

Pennsylvania is seeing an uptick in voter registration with the number of registered voters up 4 percent since the 2014 midterm elections.

The Pennsylvania Department of State says it saw a “significant” jump in new registrations among those age 30 years and younger between March and July. They have been averaging 58 percent of new registrations since the end of February.  During the peak week of April 23-29 that age group represented 73 percent of new registrations.

And while older voters show up at the polls more consistently, those young than 35 continue to outnumber those 65 and older, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The election of Donald Trump has energized many younger people on both ends of the political spectrum, according to several organizations.

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Groups such as Pennsylvania Young Republicans and the progressive NextGen America have launched voter registration drives, as has the nonpartisan Inspire U.S. that helped students register other students in 32 schools last year. NextGen, backed by billionaire Tom Steyer, plans to spend $3.5 million trying to mobilize young voters in 2018.

The process was in full swing Monday as a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck sat along a row of food trucks on Temple University’s campus where vendors gave away cones to students and passers-by as part of a youth voter registration drive.

NextGen, which says it has registered 5,000 Pennsylvania students since they returned to campus two weeks ago, also surveyed students on top voting priorities.

“We are at over 62 colleges campuses in Pennsylvania,” said Jody Risper, regional organizing director for NextGen America. “We have a petting zoo at some colleges. We’re doing free Popsicles at UPenn, free Ben & Jerry’s today. I know at Villanova they had dogs out there, pet a dog, fill in a survey. So we’re just doing everything we can to make voting cool.”

The group targets 18- to 35-year-olds.

Sophomore Isabella Zanoni, said she registered for the first time because she feels strongly about the environment, immigration, and equal pay.

“And, of course, immigration because I feel like what’s been happening at the border with the detention centers is really evil, and we need to start treating people like people,” she said.

The 19-year-old says being from conservative Bedford County in Central Pennsylvania caused conflict in some of her high school classes.

“I want a change of the current political climate, and the best way to do that is voting,” Zanoni said.

Sampling her scoop of cookies and cream, sophomore Noelle Jones said she registered to vote because health care for all and education are topics important to her. Jones, 22, was already registered in Maryland, but she needed to update her information to Pennsylvania.

Junior Ahmed Salman was already registered to vote, but he filled out a survey about his top voting concerns.

“First of all, climate change. Everyone never ever talks about the climate and how we’re falling into global warming, and just no one ever talks about it,” the 21-year-old said. “There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, and that really bothers me. At my house, we have solar panels instead of using” the electric utility service.

The 2018 election will be Annie Martin’s first voting experience. The freshman knows that it’s “very important.”

“Especially me as a minority and as a woman, I feel like that I need to. It’s like people fought for me to be here to vote. So I feel like I should,” the 18-year-old said.

The communications and social influence major hopes to educate herself more on politics.

Montgomery County native Jackie Kizel will also be voting for the first time in November.

“I want to make a difference in my community and feel like it’s something every American should do,” said, Kizel, 19, who added that women’s rights are very important to her.

“Our goal is every single student,” said Risper with a laugh. “We’re not going to stop until all of them are registered. We’re not going to stop until they say, ‘You already registered me yesterday.’ ”

Editors note: This story has been corrected to reflect that it is not a new development that younger voters (35 and younger) outnumber those 65 and older. It has been the case for multiple election cycles.

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