Get Out the (Youth) Vote: Millennials are Making Their Voices Heard

by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE in Hardwick, VT

It’s been a whirlwind election cycle so far, and it can only get even more interesting from here on out.  If you’ve been devoting any attention to the presidential race – even just on a peripheral level – you’ve probably heard something about how crucial youth voters will be in this year’s election.  As a Youth Advocate, and as someone who was politically involved in my earlier years, I find this really exciting (and long overdue).  We heard this same emphasis on the importance of youth voters in the last two election cycles, with then-Senator and now-President Obama running for office in 2008 and 2012, respectively.  According to Matthew Segal, who is the co-founder of, between 22 and 23 million millennials voted in the 2012 general election, making up 19% of the American electorate.  This was a 1% increase from the amount of youth voters in the 2008 election and there is no doubt the number of youth voters is still growing and also happens to be the most diverse group of any voters in the United States.  You can check out Matthew Segal’s article here.

By the way, I had been wondering this for a while and just in case you had been wondering, too, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “millennial” as someone born in the 1980s or 1990s (or anyone who is, or will be, between the ages of 17 and 36 during this calendar year).

Check out this short PSA about Youth Voters in this election year from

It’s easy to say we need to get more youth involved in politics, but many youth may be wondering where and how to voice their ideas, concerns, hopes, and dreams regarding politics or simply just life in our country.  Well, I happened to stumble across this event today that I wanted to pass along.  Maybe some of you have already heard of it, but it was news to me and I thought it was well worth sharing.

The Vermont People’s Convention will be held on Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st of this year at Montpelier High School.  I want to stress that this event is not directly tied to any political party, organization, or candidate (at least as far as I can tell), rather the purpose is to help empower people to realize their full political potential on any level and to bring people together to work cohesively.  The opening line on the website says “Communities in Vermont, like communities around the world, are suffering from economic inequality, ecological disaster, and the violence and hatred of racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism.”  The convention plans to tackle these issues bringing people together “to imagine solutions and take action for fundamental, systemic change.”

Of particular importance is the Youth Activism Summit that is part of the Vermont People’s Convention.   The Youth Activism Summit will feature workshops on racial justice, gender & sexuality, and direct action, just to name a few.  In addition to workshops, folks can participate in poetry, silk screening, bike mechanics, and a nighttime variety show.  The Vermont People’s Convention and the Youth Activism Summit will be co-occurring in an effort to offer people in both events networking/collaboration opportunities and “to build a more abundant intergenerational movement for justice.”  I haven’t yet been able to find out what the cut-off age is for being a youth activist (if there is one), but the good news is that the Youth Activism Summit is free to register for!  There is a sliding scale registration fee for the Vermont People’s Convention.  Spread the word and get involved!

Check out a video of the People’s Convention that happened in Vermont in 2012: