Generational Alliance engages youth in the electoral process
Gearing up the vote
By Jonathan Gramling

     In his bid to be elected President of the United States, then
Senator Barack Obama geared a lot of his grassroots campaign to
young voters. He Facebooked them and Tweeted them. Regular e-
mails went over the Internet to young voters and other “Obamaites.”
Young people were evident everywhere in Obama’s campaign, from
election headquarters in Chicago to the advance teams that paved the
way for his visits from coast to coast to the state campaign
organizations.
     And Obama’s focus on youth paid off as he won crucial contests
in Virginia and elsewhere in traditional Republican strongholds and
won the presidency in November 2008. But something has happened
to the youth vote for the Democratic Party since then. It has dropped
off precipitously.
      That trend has not been lost on the Generational Alliance, a
we are continuing to engage young people in the conversation and in the political process, not just during the presidential election, but also
the level of engagement that occurred in 2008 needs to be continued throughout the mid-term elections,” Brown said during a conference
call with The Hues. “What we have seen is that has not happened through the last election cycle we know with some of these governors’
races in New Jersey and Virginia as well. We need to continue to make sure that the voices and concerns of young people are heard and
also that they are engaged.”
      The Generational Alliance, founded in 2005, is concerned with four primary issue areas: education, health care, faith communities and
jobs. To some degree all of these issues are before the Congress on some level, and representatives of the Generational Alliance feel that
it is crucial for young voters — voters under the age of 35 — to remain engaged.
      “We want to make sure that our young people continue to be involved and continue to keep their elected officials accountable for some
of the issues that are important for us, for example, the DREAM Act and whether young people will be able to afford to go to college or not
and whether they come out of college with a huge amount of debt,” said Oliva Lopez, director for leadership development for Democracia
USA, another coalition member. “We are interested in making sure that we pass legislation that is going to translate into more opportunities
for our young people to participate in the green economy, issues that affect young people. We are disproportionately affected by the
unemployment rate. People have had to move back into their parents’ homes after finishing college. It is a difficult time for young people
right now. So we want to make sure that we continue to engage them so young people are aware of the power that they have to change
things, to hold their elected officials accountable.”
      Part of the reason for the drop-off in young voter participation, according to Brown, is the fading focus of election campaigns on youth
voters. “In some of these past elections, there haven’t been any concerted efforts to figure out exactly what young people care about, how
we can be a solution that will impact them that they can also understand and also to make sure that they actually come out to the polls, if
they need a ride or they need information about the polling places or they need to have a poll location moved to campus,” Brown said. “We
haven’t seen that level of engagement for the past few months in some of these recent elections.”
      The Generational Alliance has been gearing up to make sure that concerns of young voters are addressed in the mid-term elections.
The coalition members share resources and expertise to work on their common issues. “We are developing leadership together,” Lopez
said. “I think that is a very important part of our work. There are opportunities for young leaders to learn from what everyone else is doing,
to share best practices that if one of our organizations is offering an advanced training for potential activists, we are able to attend those. I
think another really important part of the work that we are doing as a collaborative is building that kind of leadership that is going to
mobilize more young people in their communities or their campuses.”
      The balance of power in Washington, D.C. may rest on the level of youth engagement in the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections in
November. And the fate of many Senators and Representatives may rest on how they address the issues of young people and how
successful the Generational Alliance and other groups are in increasing the voter participation of young people. The fate of the DREAM Act
and other crucial legislation may hang in the balance.
Oliva Lopez is director of
leadership development for
Democracia U.S.A.
Stefanie Brown is the  Youth &
College Staff National Director
of the NAACP.
coalition of 13 youth-oriented organizations that are committed to making sure that young voters remain
engaged in the electoral process. Stefanie Brown, the NAACP’s national director for youth and college, has
seen the shift in youth involvement.
      “What the recent elections in Massachusetts and New Jersey signal is that we need to make sure that