Can ASU political groups rouse the millennial vote?

Working with politicians and students alike, campus organizations look to spur participation in the upcoming election

With the Arizona general elections on Nov. 6 fast approaching, political organizations at ASU are seeking to bring millennials, a demographic that typically follows politics but rarely participates in elections, to the polls.

Both the ASU College Republicans United and the ASU Young Democrats are spearheading efforts to help their party's respective candidates reach voters and encourage voter turnout. In turn, these young politicos get experience for their prospective careers and find value in working to support their beliefs. 

“As the general election is approaching, we are starting to work for the GOP at large as a whole, so anything the GOP wants us to do, we are always there to help them,” Richard Thomas, the president of ASU College Republicans United, said.

Though canvassing and phone banking for candidates has been a large part of their jobs recently, Thomas, a senior studying elementary education, said CRU has also been working to create urgency from Republican voters who want Arizona to remain red. 

On the Democratic side, the ASU Young Dems have been working to canvass and petition for their respective candidates, get the word out about their mission and advocate for Democrats across the state. 

“With canvassing, we go door-to-door. We get a list that we go and target, so we can talk to voters and try to educate them about what is happening in the general election,” political science senior and ASU Young Democrats President Jesse Avalos said. 

This support can be key in local elections.

“(College Republicans) got involved right after I filed to run about two years ago,” Frank Schmuck, a Republican seeking the District 18 state senate seat, said. “They have done everything, from stuffing letters to showing up to events and working those events for myself or other Republicans running for office.”

Schmuck said University republican groups have been instrumental in mentoring the youth during his campaign. Besides going to events and petitioning for candidates, they work alongside young people who are involved in the campaigns on various levels to help them understand the ideals of the Republican Party, he said.

For the Young Democrats, the one step to turning Arizona blue is spreading the word, especially in regards to issues of education.

“When a student knocks on a voter's door and talks to them about how they need the future to look, and they talk about their education experience in our state … it makes a huge difference for voters to hear those stories directly from students,” Kelli Butler, the incumbent Democratic State Representative from District 28, said. 

The youth vote is notoriously difficult to turn out. A recent study released by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy found that voter turnout in Arizona is generally low, but even more so for young people. Only a quarter of registered millennials voted in the 2016 general election. Only 4 percent voted in both the 2016 primary and general elections. 

And that was during a presidential election — across the board, turnout is deflated during midterm elections. 

See more:  ASU public policy experts address low voter participation 'crisis'

“It’s really about getting people excited and getting people to vote,” Thomas said. “We are needing to build up the urgency for this next election … and you can’t just go out there once and vote in the big elections. It’s an ongoing process and I think people need to come to that realization.”

Thomas said he would volunteer to drive people from their houses to voting booths the day of the general election so that more people could vote.

“Students are asking themselves a lot: what can I do, what can I do to make this different?” Gabriella Varela, a communications sophomore and member of the ASU Young Dems, said. “And really what they can do is vote.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to College Republicans as College Republicans United, they are separate groups. The article has been updated. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @mackenzieshuman on Twitter.

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