Parkland shooting got young voters motivated here, official says


As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students get ready to embark next week on a national get-out-the-vote bus tour, enthusiasm among young people to sign up to vote is already bursting in Palm Beach County, the county’s election supervisor said.

In the 10 weeks after the school massacre in Parkland, nearly 4,000 youth under 21 registered to vote in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. While those numbers aren’t record-breaking, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the response to the shooting via voter registration was immediate.

“I’ve never seen this level of interest before and I have been a public servant for 20 years,” said Bucher.

FULL COVERAGE: Of Parkland high school massacre on Valentine’s Day

High school officials often contact her about conducting voter registration drives on campus. After the Parkland shooting, students themselves were making the calls: “That’s never happened before,” Bucher added. Also, Florida began online voter registration at registertovoteflorida.gov in October 2017 in an effort to “target the hashtag generation,” Bucher said.

“They don’t do paper,” Bucher said. “Now they can register on their phone.”

Since the shooting, 1,371 under age 21 registered to vote

In Palm Beach County, 7,801 people registered to vote between Feb. 14, the day of the shooting, and April 30. Of those, 1,371 were under 21, many still in high school or recent grads, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of the most recent voter registration data available.

By comparison, 6,464 people registered to vote during the same 10-week period in 2014 — a mid-term election year as we are in now. Of those, 1,409 were under 21.

“After the shooting, registering to vote was like a really big deal to me,” said Fantasy Galindo, 18, of Greenacres.

Galindo, a recent Forest Hill High School grad and member of the marching band, said she knew 14-year-old Parkland victim Gina Montalto, who marched in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas band. Galindo registered at school after the shooting.

In the same time period this year, Broward County saw 9,183 new voters added to the voting rolls, with 2,594 (28.2 percent) under 21. Those numbers are dwarfed by registrations during the same time in 2014, when 13,024 new voters registered. Nearly 58 percent were under 21.

New voters with addresses in Parkland accounted for 203 of the newly registered. Of those, 77 (37.9 percent) were under 21. Some were students at Douglas High and registered at school during a voter registration drive after the shooting.

Dr. Brenda Snipes, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, said countywide she has seen a slight increase in young people registering to vote since the shooting.

Her office hosted its annual spring voter registration drive in all public and private high schools in March — the month after the shooting. Although Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School won its division again this year, registering 549 new voters — the number was down from last year’s 739 new registrations.

She expects to see the true impact the shooting has had on youth registration after her office’s fall voter registration campaign in the schools.

‘We literally are the ones making a difference’

Elise Liversdege, 18, a recent Stoneman Douglas graduate, was on campus the day of the shooting. She registered in March, something she had planned to do even before the shooting, but it seemed more relevant after, she said: “The cliche we are the future is absolutely true — if there’s anything I’ve learned from my school and my experience is we literally are the ones making a difference and I’m happy about it.”

Although the voting age in Florida is 18, pre-registration is allowed at age 16. That is what two of the most prominent student activists, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, did. Hogg, now 18, pre-registered when he was 16 years old. Gonzalez, 18, pre-registered when she was 17.

Both registered as Democrats — the party of choice for the youngest of the newly registered young voters. Nearly 43 percent, 589 of 1,371 new young voters in Palm Beach County registered as Democrats. Those who registered without a party affiliation accounted for 37.1 percent. Only 227 (16.5 percent) registered as Republicans. Minor parties accounted for the remainder.

Young voters in Broward County also favored the Democratic Party by four-to-one, with nearly half (1,270 of 2,594) registering as Democrats and 310 as Republicans. About 37 percent registered without a party affiliation.

Taking their cause to the nation

Almost immediately after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and teachers at the school on Valentine’s Day, distraught students turned their anger toward gun-rights groups and politicians supported by the gun lobby. They demanded gun reform and vowed to register and cast the first ballots of their lives against those who oppose them.

To further their cause, 20 of the most outspoken Parkland students will lead that tour through 20 states. It begins next Friday in Chicago and likely and will include stops in communities plagued by gun violence and others where they know their views likely will not be welcome. The tour is non-partisan and students will not campaign for specific candidates.

“Real change is brought about by getting out there and making sure we’re holding our politicians accountable by voting, getting those out of office that don’t represent us the way they said they would,” Douglas High graduate Cameron Kasky said during a press conference June 4 announcing the bus tour.

“Hopefully, the young people’s activism around the Parkland issue will carry over to the voting booth,” said Snipes, the Broward County election supervisor.

“We just think the young people have managed themselves well in this process that most of us will never know or experience. They have turned it into a cause that will benefit many people.”



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