At combined #March4OurLives events — which drew tens of thousands to march in protest of gun violence across America — nearly 5,000 people registered to vote.
Most were younger than 30, said Aaron Ghitelman, communications director of HeadCount, a voter registration organization that registers mostly younger voters at concerts and music festivals.
The team at HeadCount used their expertise in crowded and chaotic environments to help people register at the March 30 rallies, including New York City and Washington, D.C.
“When Emma Gonzalez gave that incredible speech that ended with a call to everybody to register to vote, it was like, ‘Okay, what can we do?’” Ghitelman told VOA, referring to youth activist Gonzalez and her classmates, who since surviving the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have driven more youths to participate in politics.
Hi my name is REGISTER TO VOTE— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) March 7, 2018
Ghitelman said a tweet announcing their list of state rules for registration was retweeted more than 20,000 times.
"There was a lot of interest in that list,” he said, especially among people who did not know voters could be registered before age 18.
Huge thank you to @RockTheVote for their support yesterday. Not only did they power #MarchForOurLives online #RegisterToVote tool, but they also helped us pull off possibly the largest #VoterRegistration training of all time. Always a pleasure to work with y%27all. ROCK ON 🤘 pic.twitter.com/FQcNlPrRNy— HeadCount (@HeadCountOrg) March 25, 2018
HeadCount partnered with grassroots organizations such as HipHopCaucus, Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino, League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, Voterise and Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN). He said HeadCount and its partners, armed with clipboards and information sheets about state laws for voters, registered people from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
According to a study by Tufts university, college student voter turnout increased slightly in 2016 compared to the 2012 election, but still, at 48.3 percent, was less than half of American college students voting.
In the 2016 presidential election, however, for the first time, Millennials and Gen X voters constituted a larger share of American voters than the Baby Boomer generation. Voters younger than 52 cast 69.6 million votes in the 2016 general election — a slight majority of the 137.5 million total votes cast, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
And that number is something the organizers of the March for Our Lives and many of its attendees are looking to change.
“Politicians, either represent the people or get out,” Cameron Kasky, a Parkland student, said in front of the Capitol to hundreds of thousands of attendees of the Washington rally.
“Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming.”
Some students who traveled to Washington to voice their opinion at #March4OurLives but who cannot vote, urged young Americans who can, to sign up and exercise their rights.
Kimberly Salinas and Elizabeth Peralta were brought illegally to the United States when they were young children, but under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), they are allowed to study and work in the U.S. legally. But, unless they become citizens, they are not allowed to vote.
Having traveled from North Carolina with a group of peers for the march, the two spoke between tears about the importance of young people participating in politics.
“Here, we are allowed to share our voices,” Peralta, who was born in Mexico, told VOA the night before the march, but shrugged her shoulders when pressed about the right to vote.
“It’s better thinking what we can do than what we can’t,” Salinas chimed in quietly.
“There are so many limitations that we face, but there’s a lot of open doors every now and then,” Salinas said. “You’ve got to take advantage of those rather than focus on the downsides of it. And encourage our friends to speak up — the ones who can — speak up for us.”