FILE PHOTO: Campaign signs are posted near the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station while people line up for early…
FILE - Campaign signs are posted near the Supervisor of Elections Office polling station while people line up for early voting in Pinellas County ahead of the election in Largo, Florida., Oct. 21, 2020.

Millennials comprise a large, diverse and important part of the U.S. electorate this year. But they are also an increasing portion of candidates for local and state elections.

According to the Millennial Action Project (MAP), an organization tracking young people running for office across the country, record numbers of people under 45 are running for office this year.

“It blew us away, because from 2018 to 2020, we've tracked to 266% increase... in the number of people who threw their hat in the ring,” Layla Zaidane, executive director and COO of MAP, told VOA. 

“On Election Day, on the ballot, we'll have 259 total. Millennials just running for congressional seats,” she added.

With issues such as climate change and wage stagnation at the forefront of people’s minds, many millennial candidates say they want a hand in shaping policy that will affect their future.

David Kim has been an immigration attorney for a decade, and says he wants to use his experience to represent LA residents working multiple jobs to make ends meet. (Courtesy Photo, David Kim)

“The reality is that the consequences and ramifications of the decisions that are being made will be felt by us,” David Kim, who is running as a Democrat for California’s 34th House seat, which includes Los Angeles, told VOA. “So, wouldn't it make sense for us to legislate for our future?”

The increase in millennials running for office spans almost equally across both parties. According to MAP, 40% of candidates under 45 running for the House of Representatives are Republicans.

But this generation is more likely than any other to identify as independent — or at least not fit neatly into the ideological box of either party.

FILE - Young voters wait on line at a polling station at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, March 3, 2020.
Young Independent Voters Focus on Issues, Not Party
A growing number of voters describe themselves as politically independent or unaffiliated, saying that neither major US party fully represents them

“I'm not a huge fan of the two-party system,” said Luke Negron, a 27-year-old candidate in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, which includes Pittsburgh. “But my opponent is a Democrat, so I have to run as a Republican for a viable campaign.”  

He added, “That doesn't mean that I think that all Republicans are good guys. And it certainly doesn't mean that I think that the only elitist sellouts are Democrats.” 

In California, House seats have general or nonpartisan primaries, meaning two people of the same party can be the candidates on general Election Day.

Kim, 36, said part of what drove him to run was working on the campaign of Kenneth Mejia — a Green Party candidate for the same congressional district in 2018 who lost with just under 30% of the vote.

Though Kim’s ideology aligns with that of the Green Party candidate, he said he chose to run as a Democrat, noting “the distinction between corporately funded Democrats and people power Democrats.”

Zaidane thinks young people’s tendency to blur party lines is not only an advantage to their own campaigns but the future of policymaking.

“I think that represents a huge opportunity for this generation to exercise that ability to collaborate and innovate outside of traditional frameworks and actually solve problems,” she said.

Luke Negron, a 27-year-old candidate for Congress, says he is tired of establishment politicians. (Courtesy Photo, Luke Negron)

Before serving in the U.S. Air Force, Negron balanced multiple service jobs, — “classic millennial stuff,” he told VOA.

Though technically on opposite sides of the aisle, both Negron and Kim talk about the same experience, and the same struggle — working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“There's political grandstanding. There's moral power grabbing. And all of this really leads, ultimately, to the working class and the lower class being the ones who get hurt,” Negron said.

Zaidane said there are many policy issues, including the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have contributed to a growing number of younger candidates running for office.

The pandemic in particular has provided a unique opportunity to young candidates. In a time where large gatherings are banned for safety and people are confined to their homes, young candidates generally possess the unique advantage of knowing how to campaign online — specifically through social media.

“We have started to understand how our actions can now lead to change, and how we can leverage technology and leverage the power of social media to do that,” Zaidane said. She cited the 2018 March for Our Lives rally, which was organized by students following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“And of course, in a COVID era, where young people are running for office, that gives them a massive edge,” she added.

Kim, who has been endorsed by former Democratic presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson, laughed heartily when he recounted his staff of two people when he filed to run for Congress. His volunteer base now includes over 200 people making phone calls and sending texts.

“Laughing is a sign of my disbelief,” he said.

Whether these candidates will join previous waves of young politicians in the House of Representatives will be decided this week.


What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.