Months after the mass shooting that killed their friends and classmates, many survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are voting for the first time in this year’s midterm elections. The Associated Press reports that many of them have been working to energize other young people to do the same.
“It is kind of the culmination of everything we’ve been working for,” said senior Jaclyn Corin in an interview with AP. She’s one of the creators of March For Our Lives, a protest movement started by Parkland shooting survivors to advocate for gun law reform. “This is truly the moment that young people are going to make the difference in this country.”
After the shooting, March For Our Lives spearheaded mass walkouts at schools to support the cause. Parkland student activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzales became well-known thanks to powerful speeches delivered at rallies.
As AP notes, Hogg put off going to college so that he could continue his activism with March For Lives and help encourage people his age to get out and vote.
Others opted to go to college and mobilize their fellow students. According to AP, Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate Bradley Thornton now attends the University of Central Florida and he took students to vote for the first time at the campus’s early voting center. One student said that she probably would not have bothered to vote if not for the Parkland student activists.
“I’ve never voted in [an] election,” said UCF student Tiffany McKelton. “I actually did it because of them.”
Corin said that the students have been convincing their peers to vote by connecting this year’s midterm election to issues that the people they’re speaking to care about. “It’s really about tying it back to gun violence or tying it back to immigration or whatever that person is passionate about,” she said. “I’ve used that tactic so many times and it has actually worked.”
Nine months after 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at their Florida school, Parkland students are heading to the polls for their first Election Day. https://t.co/RuoIpYWhOF pic.twitter.com/9MeDtH4vfA— ABC News (@ABC) November 3, 2018
Statistics show that these types of voter mobilization efforts among young people are having an impact. Reuters reports that the early voting turnout for voters younger than 30 has skyrocketed in Texas and Georgia, based on data collected by Target Smart, a Democratic firm that monitors voting trends. They report that early and absentee voting in that age group has risen by 400%.
Each of those states has a high profile race where a progressive candidate could make history. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke is vying for a Senate seat that’s long been occupied by Republican Ted Cruz. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams’s gubernatorial race has highlighted serious voter suppression issues in the state as her campaign has sought to encourage more people of color to go to the polls. If she wins, Abrams will become the first black female governor in American history.