Within The Early Voting Boom, Youth Turnout Seems To Be Surging More than 6 million voters under 30 have cast early ballots, compared with roughly 2 million at the same time in 2016. The number of first-time voters in that group has doubled in four years.
NPR logo

Within The Early Voting Boom, Youth Turnout Seems To Be Surging

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/928641949/930608793" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Within The Early Voting Boom, Youth Turnout Seems To Be Surging

Within The Early Voting Boom, Youth Turnout Seems To Be Surging

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/928641949/930608793" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In any election, young voters are hard to predict. This year, we do know that nearly a hundred million Americans have already cast their ballots, and we know that includes a huge number of votes from people under the age of 30. NPR's Juana Summers follows demographics and politics.

Hey there, Juana.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: So Americans under 30 - four years ago, in the last presidential election, fewer than half of them participated. Are you seeing signs of a different story this year?

SUMMERS: We are. You know, across the board, we're seeing high early turnout, which isn't surprising given this pandemic. So in that sense, it's not surprising that carries over to young voters. In fact, voters under the age of 30 have already cast millions of ballots. But when you look at the early-voting data, as well as recent polls, experts suggest that voters under 30 could show up big-time this year - they're saying even possibly a stronger showing than in 2008. That year, when Barack Obama was elected president, 48% of eligible voters under 30 cast ballots. And I also think it's important to note, too, that young people are showing up in potentially record-breaking numbers and navigating barriers to voting during a pandemic that's displaced many of them.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, navigating barriers like what? We're all dealing with the pandemic. Is there something specific that young people are facing in trying to vote?

SUMMERS: Yeah, you know, there is. When we talk about young voters, we're most often talking about new voters, people who have never participated in the system before. I talked to a lot of them, and one thing that comes up often is that voting actually is not easy. One of the people I talked to was Sam Peterson. He is 21 and goes to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. And his first year in college there coincided with the midterm elections.

SAM PETERSON: I didn't know what voting by mail was or absentee voting. And so then I was just really overwhelmed with school and with this voting thing. So I didn't vote in 2018. And after seeing the results of some of the elections, I kind of realized, like, oh, no. Like, my voice can be heard. My voice does matter.

SUMMERS: Now Peterson is mobilizing other young people as a fellow for the left-leaning NextGen Iowa. They've taken their get-out-the-vote efforts online to try to keep young people turning out, even though people aren't physically together. But there are also significant legal hurdles that make it more difficult for young people and particularly young people of color to vote in places. Some states have residency requirements or deadlines for voter registration that make it more difficult for them to vote with their living away from their homes. And in places with strict identification laws, young would-be voters who don't have driver's licenses can also run up against issues.

KELLY: Is there anywhere in particular we should keep our eye on tomorrow as we're trying to track the youth vote?

SUMMERS: Yeah. We got to talk about Texas. They are leading the country in terms of early voting. And according to research from CIRCLE, a research center at Tufts University, as of the middle of last week, young voters had already cast more than 1 million early votes. And that is not far off from the number of votes they cast in all of the 2016 presidential race. And the electorate there - it's been growing and diversifying. And I want to point out one big change. Roughly 800,000 Latino Americans have turned 18 since the 2016 election, and that means they could be a really big factor as we're looking at the results.

KELLY: And real quick, do we know who they are voting for?

SUMMERS: Here's one hint. Harvard's Institute of Politics released a poll recently that showed that former Vice President Joe Biden has a lead - 63% of likely voters backing him, compared to the 25% who say they're backing the president.

KELLY: Okie doke (ph). That is NPR's Juana Summers on the youth vote.

Thanks so much, Juana.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.