Liz Rincon is the state director for the Pennsylvania League of Young Voters, and while she’s only been organizing on the ground for more a few months she’s done a lot.
“This was never supposed to happen. I think everyone was unprepared for this because Pennsylvania has never mattered before!” she said over the phone between spirits of answering questions to shouting voices in the background.
The League has worked non-stop for the past several years to energize community members to help engage “sometimes” and “never” voters into participating in the primary elections this year because it helps encourage more consistent voting in the general election as well as other elections.
“It’s a catalyst,” Rincon said. “There is a lot of excitment this year and a lot of get out the vote, when too often we are ignored. This will really help us, not just this year, but with all elections in the future down to our mayoral elections, even…
“The major question is if they [candidates] will come back and holding them accountable for the things they say here. Will they come here and do the town hall [meetings] in the general election? We have to keep people engaged.”
Time will tell about the general election, but for now the turnout in Pennsylvania has been substantial. When asked about the campaign activity among the Republican candidates Rincon told me that while The League was non-partisan the GOP was not engaged at all because they didn’t have to be. With Republican candidate John McCain as a shoe-in, the democratic candidates had the monopoly on the enthusiasm in the state.
There were some problems reported in voting in PA that one blogger reported the encounters faced by a friend in Pittsburgh, PA: “New voters were sent cards in the mail with the wrong polling place. Her voting site was a construction area, and she subsequently spent 40 minutes wandering the streets with other would-be voters. Eventually they got the number for campaign headquarters and found the polling area several blocks away.”
Another came from someone who emailed friends of mine who said that he recently signed up to vote by the deadline, had a copy of his registration form, and proof that it was received by the necessary authorities before the date, but was not on the voter rolls. Electronic voting problems were also reported in places.
You can view preliminary exit polling via the chart to the right from Mike over at Future Majority. In the end the Hip-Hop Research and Education Fund says that of the 218,923 new voter registration in Pennsylvania since January 2008, 70 percent of new registrants are between 18 and 35 years of age.
According to Jane Flemming Kleeb at Young Voter’s PAC, “The youth share of the overall electorate was 3 percent points above the average share for 2004. This number is consistent with the increased turnout in other states and an increased share compared to the last two general elections.”
The report from CIRCLE (pdf) shows a 14 percent increase in turnout for voters under 30 and young voters were 12 percent of the total vote share.
Ally Klimkoski has been a staff in numerous races from presidential campaigns to city council races. Ally also consults and provides trainings to interest groups and activist organizations nationwide. Ally is especially interested in global human rights issues and the ever-increasing wage disparity in the United States.