The Statewide District Primary Election is on June 5th; with an apparent trend of heightened youth activism, Santa Monica Democratic Club President, Jon Katz, and the Co Director of Santa Monica College’s Public Policy Institute, Shari Davis, give their insights of the present and future of the young vote.
Voter Turnout drops across the country during non-presidential elections, and California is no different; the Public Policy Institute of California sites two things that cause this, “[Low] Registration rates [and] Turnout… turnout is largely about age. Young people have been voting at slightly higher rates in presidential elections but at much lower rates in midterms than voters of the same age did two decades ago.” Katz mirrored this idea in regards to Santa Monica, “considering that most people who vote are about sixty, pretty much anybody from 18-40 [is a young voter]… for a presidential election you’d be looking at a younger age group, but not if you’re talking about things like the judicial races coming up which have a lower turnout.”
In his role of Presidents of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Katz has the unique aspect of being one of the youngest to hold the position. This plays a large part in the direction he pushes the club and who he invites to speak, “I’ve been trying to recruit younger members, and I’ve been seeing that in the turnout of the meetings. We try to steer the club towards ideas that would interest their audience,” he says. Katz also mentions the rise of young activism in general, “there was such a big response on the issue [gun violence] after Parkland, and it was really young students who were leading the way, so we invited a bunch of the student leaders to come speak. We actually ended up having an eighth grade student, who organized the Santa Monica March for Our Lives, speak at a panel about Gun Violence recently.”
“We saw a huge spike in turnout after Trump was elected… which is nice and we have a chance to talk to people in a levelheaded way and provide hope that California can lead the resistance against Trump,” He says on a rise of participation within the club, even within those below the voting age, “You can never be too young to canvas or phone bank; with our club, if you’re under eighteen but plan on voting as a democrat once you turn eighteen you can be a part of the club and participate as a voting member”
Davis of the Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute mirrors this idea of young adults, even below the voting age, having a way in the Institute to participate in politics, “the best way to get involved starts with getting informed, making sure you know what’s happening locally, statewide, nationally, and globally, through reliable sources,” she prefaces, “go to city council meetings, go to school board meetings, watch the process in action. Watch the agenda, see which issues are of interest to you, and then go and speak–if you have an opinion about something go and express it. The elected officials want to know how their constituents feel about things and they’ll listen.”
The Public Policy Institute’s curriculum portrays exactly the advice Davis gives, “there is incorporated information about civic engagement, from a completely non-partisan approach. In addition the Institute has two weeks where we have a number of events, lectures, and film streaming–various different elements of those two weeks allow students to have a real understanding of issues from a variety of angles. Each event talks about voter engagement and active participation in these issues can help students accomplishing policy goals”
As for the future, Katz says anything goes, “Trump’s election proves that a lot of things that were talked about as ‘that could never happen’, could, and now there’s nothing off the table. The limitations of what is possible have expanded greatly. The parties are going to have to be strong and unapologetic, and not just ‘the lesser of two evils.’” As for Santa Monica’s future he says, “I think this primary will probably have higher turnout than most midterm primaries, but we’re focused on driving up that number and getting people to vote. I think we’re going to see a really big boost though, these issues like the women’s march, gun violence, immigration–they’re all really activating the young vote and we’ll see them turn out in bigger numbers than we have in the past.”