Yesterday I sent out a tweet asking my followers to send topics that they wanted to see me write about here on Future Majority. Karlo’s suggestions received a couple of retweets in support, so I will cover the first one today and the second later this week. Thanks to everyone who participated and keep checking FM to see if your idea gets covered.
Today’s topic is local elections in or near municipalities with a high concentration of youth, especially universities.This is an area where I have had some experience. In 2005 I filed an exploratory committee for Tempe City Council after I was drafted to run through Facebook. I ended up withdrawing from the race because a friend of mine who was a much better candidate and also a Young Democrat entered. He now sits on the Tempe City Council.
University towns are great places for young candidates to run for local office. There is a lot of latent electoral power that can be engaged by a candidate to change the game of a local election.
District vs. At-Large Representation
City and town councils tend to elect their council members in one of two ways: district representation or at-large. In municipalities with at-large representation, young voters have the power to exert their influence to change the way the entire governing body addresses their issues. In district elections, the maps are often drawn to have the university confined to a single district, giving the youth community a single seat on the council. The other representatives tend to represent the older constituents and the youth district representative often ends up as a lone dissenting vote. In at-large elections, high youth turnout can change the entire composition of the council, so all of the representatives will have to take youth positions into account if they want to keep their seats.
It is important to do research about the youth in the district or municipality. This ranges from the standard voter-file number-crunching (youth density in precincts, etc.) to finding out what the most popular hang-outs are for youth in the area. It is also very useful to have a copy of the school’s academic and activity calendars.
The most effective method of engaging young voters is outreach from their own peers. Candidates should work with a school’s College and/or Young Democrats chapters to run a peer-to-peer program on campus. Young candidates should be making stops to the places where students tend to live or hang out and get the support of those voters. Many of these young voters have never been talked to by a candidate, nor has anyone ever asked for their vote.
Right now the most popular social networking tool among college students is Facebook. Luckily with advanced searching it is fairly easy to find young voters on the site that are at the college/university and would be likely to vote if asked.
The candidate or a young supporter can send a Facebook message to each of the people in the search results explaining why they are being contacted and providing information about the candidate/campaign, especially the link to the Facebook group.
It is also helpful to create Facebook events for campaign activities as well as publishing content that can easily shared by your supporters in their profiles. The News Feed has turned Facebook into a place where buzz is visible and users can sense if a campaign has online momentum.
The main thrust of this post is that there is a great opportunity for candidates to win their elections with the power of young voters in high youth-density areas. In order to take advantage of that opportunity candidates and campaigns must engage in peer-to-peer outreach to young voters in the places where they live an hang out.
What are your thoughts on municipal campaigns in youth-dense areas? Share in the comments.