Rae Martinez is the director of Texas Rising, a project of the Texas Freedom Network that builds the power of a rising generation of young Texans, with an emphasis on communities of color, by advocating for change in the cities and towns where we live, and at the ballot box.
There are a couple of things we like to believe about voting: that it is habit-forming and that it is contagious.
We believe that once a person votes for the first time, they are likely to make a habit of it. We also believe that if a person votes, they are likely to convince their friends and family to do the same.
That’s why at our program for young Texans, Texas Rising, we are focusing a lot of our efforts on getting new voters registered and to the polls.
On National Voter Registration Day, our volunteers will fan out across the state with a goal of registering 5,000 of their peers by midnight. It is part of our organization’s broader goal of registering 100,000 new, young voters in time for next year’s presidential election.
Adding 5,000 new voters to the approximately 16 million already registered in Texas for the 2018 election might not seem like much, but we see that number through the lens of the potential these voters have to make all the difference, next year and beyond.
In an era where the electoral battles are hard-fought and sometimes won by small margins, getting any amount of new voter registrations could prove crucial.
In 2010, for example, one central Texas state House district was decided by a dozen votes. If, as is widely expected, the Texas House is up for grabs next year, in a situation similar to 2010, that handful of votes could very well decide who controls one of our legislative chambers.
You also surely haven’t forgotten — how could you? — that the 2016 presidential election turned on a few thousand votes across the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. If, as is also expected, Texas is a battleground next year, it will be the most hotly contested of any state.
The three battlegrounds that swung the 2016 election have a combined 46 electoral votes. Texas has 38 all by itself. In a close race, 5,000 votes in the Lone Star State could very well decide who gets to live in the White House for four years.
There is also Florida in 2000. Many of the young Texans we will register are not old enough to remember that election, but they know their history. They very well know what the official margin was in that case.
This moment is a critical time to be a young voter. By next year, the Pew Research Center estimates that the millennial generation combined with Generation Z will make up 37 percent of the national electorate. It means that this large group of potential voters next year will be between the ages of 18 and 39.
Moreover, just last year, participation by people under the age of 30 in Texas spiked for the 2018 midterm elections. Let me tell you that energy has not gone away.
I had the good fortune of attending the Democratic Presidential Debate in Houston, where I sat with other Texas Rising members. The excitement and enthusiasm are palpable. Young people frankly can’t wait for Nov. 3, 2020, to get here already so they can go out and vote.
This rising generation of young, diverse Texans has reached voting age and are ready to make an impact.
We all must work toward getting every possible voter registered and to the polls. We’re doing our part, and great organizations like Move Texas, JOLT Action and Battleground Texas are also doing great work to register new voters.
We would appreciate some help, too. If you aren’t registered yet, your county’s elections administrator can help. If you know a young person, encourage them to register.
Now is the time to get this rising generation of young Texan hooked on voting.
Texas Rising will be holding a voter registration event at the Academic Plaza on Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.