It’s Time for Our Parents To Take Young Voters Seriously

Light blue background with image of blue wave, an American flag and the word "VOTE" laid over a ballot box and someone inserting their ballot into the box, a black and white image of someone speaking into a megaphone, a peach-shaped sticker that reads "I'm a Georgia voter," and signs that read "Together and Stronger," "Protect Our Mothers Fathers Grandmas Grandpas," "We stand with our Asian family until we all win," and "Voice in Unity"

The 2022 midterm elections taught us that the Democratic Party relies on Millennial and Gen Z voters to win key races across the country.

It’s no secret or surprise that we saw an overwhelming turnout among people aged 18-35 sway the results of the 2022 midterms. Yet, political campaigns still miss the mark on representing a meaningful, diverse grassroots coalition of voters and their communities, creating apathy towards a system that fails to deliver for working families of color and our collective future.  

Currently, we in the political sphere tend to view youth voters as a single voting bloc with one shared set of politics, ignoring an entire generation’s diversity. If we continue to use this classification, there will be an untold number of voters falling through the cracks. We vote when it means most for the future and well-being of the communities we grew up in, not because of singular issues like student debt. 

In recent years, we’ve begun to see the harmful effects that filing voters into ambiguous tents has had on communities of color. Treating all AAPI people “the same” or miscategorizing us all together creates social and political exclusion, erases the depth and diversity of our ethnic, linguistic and sociopolitical differences, fosters misinformation and overall results in millions of people in various communities feeling unheard and misunderstood. 

Additionally, the young adults who became old enough to vote within the past decade are particularly being boxed in by the data points Democrats collected at on-the-ground campaign events and through digital marketing emails. The idea of “the youth vote” is a disservice to the impact Gen Z and young voters have. We are not monolithic — we are politically active and are the future of our communities, striving for what’s best for them and our collective well-being. We are voters who care about the climate crisis, our jobs and economic issues, racial injustice, immigration policy, reproductive rights, and our mental health.

We don’t want to be targeted to vote as “youth voters,” but as people whose intersecting identities affect what issues matter most to us. 

President Joe Biden would have lost the presidency in 2020 without the organizing power of young people of color. The mobilization efforts from young activists and grassroots organizers prompted groups like the Asian American community to take part in elections more than 12 times as usual in states like Georgia, where results come down to fractions of a percentage point. In 2022, these young activists met voters where they are, halted a red wave across the country and instead elected progressive candidates, like Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), who are deeply rooted in and passionate about the issues their constituents face each day. And in states whose leaders blindly followed former President Donald Trump’s attempt to undermine the results of the 2020 election, we have prevented a majority of election deniers and authoritarian leaders from putting our democracy in a chokehold.

Over the past few years, young Asian Americans endured the mental anguish of experiencing a shocking rise in racism, a complete assault on women’s rights and devastating mass shootings. Yet, they still showed up at the polls to support Democratic candidates and defeat the election-denying, dark money launderers and authoritarian racists offered by the right. For many of us, the stakes for this election were already enormous.

But still, a national survey conducted by RUN (Represent Us Now) AAPI — a cultural hub full of young creatives, changemakers and advocates focused on motivating Asian American youth to define their sense of civic purpose and be politically engaged — found that campaigns did not reach 68% of young Asian Americans leading up to the 2022 midterms. 

Reports already forecast that Millennial and Gen Z voters will nearly be the majority by the 2024 presidential election. Our issue is that young people — particularly Asian Americans — do not have a social and political space to connect on current events and what they mean for us and our respective cultures. As a result, we don’t know where to go, what resources are available, where to get information and what actions we can take. We need to recognize the impact the Asian American vote can make on the future of our democracy, and it’s just as important that we recognize the need to disaggregate youth voters and how we mobilize them. 

analysis Young Voters Turned Out in Droves Despite Barriers

Two-thirds of survey respondents told RUN AAPI that they would engage with political organizations, but few organizations provide a meaningful platform for young people to organize not only among themselves but with the rest of their communities, too. We don’t want to be targeted to vote as “youth voters,” but as people whose intersecting identities affect what issues matter most to us. 

Our motivation lies within candidates who talk about the issues that matter to us and our futures. We are not youth voters — we are voters who will soon be in charge of navigating America’s future.

Linh Nguyen is the executive director of RUN AAPI.