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Young voters turned out for the first time for the 2022 Midterm elections

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Young voters are important to both political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Two years ago, voters under the age of 30 turned out in record numbers to help Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump. What resonated with young voters this time around? We are joined by Jack Lobel. He's the deputy communications director for a group called Voters of Tomorrow. It's a Gen Z-led organization focused on mobilizing young voters and electing more Democrats. Thanks so much for being here, Jack.

JACK LOBEL: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: You voted for the first time this year, I understand. How'd that feel?

LOBEL: I did. It felt great. You know, I've been an advocate and I've been an organizer and I've been a strategist. But it really felt great to be a voter as well and to make my voice heard at the ballot box.

MARTIN: So we'll broaden it out to talk about the demographic as a whole. But what issues helped you make your choices?

LOBEL: I think that Gen Z is uniquely connected. You know, in a lot of age groups, we saw that, you know, voters in certain states voted in a certain way, but Gen Z is connected. We feel empathy for our generation and members of our generation in other states. So, you know, I live in New York where we're lucky to have abortion rights enshrined in our constitution. But I voted because, you know, my peers in other states do not have those same rights. I voted because although in New York we have gun violence restrictions that keep us safe, my peers in other states don't have those rights. So I voted to - for democracy. I voted for abortion rights. I voted for our future.

MARTIN: So when you were out trying to galvanize support for largely Democratic candidates, what were the issues that were top of mind for other young voters you talked to?

LOBEL: Voters of Tomorrow's been doing a lot of polling, and we saw that abortion was certainly a top issue. I think young voters recognize that when Roe fell, it may have been the first of many rights to fall. And we are all about progress. We are about the future. We are about equity. I think that really summarizes Gen Z. But the far right is trying to attack us. They're trying to restrict our rights, and they're trying to take us back in time. We want to go forward. So, you know, we are focusing on abortion rights. We are focusing on our ability to build a better future. Economic issues are hitting young people very hard. You know, we see that - the rising cost of health care, of housing, of education. We want to build a better future for ourselves. We want to build a better future for our families as much as anyone. And we have a very big stake in our future. And - you know, so we were all focused on progress.

MARTIN: I realize that I am about to pivot into the future. But is Joe Biden the candidate for Gen Z?

LOBEL: Look, I think that President Biden and the Democratic Party have shown that they are fighting for Gen Z on a lot of different issues, and they've shown their ability to deliver. They - you know, they passed the single largest investment in climate change history. They - in climate change in history. They passed historic investments in HBCUs and community colleges. They are canceling large amounts of student debt and pardoning anyone for simple marijuana possession. I think those are things that young voters largely support. And, you know, we want to see more sustained outreach, though. I think that's really how the Democrats keep this momentum going through 2024.

MARTIN: Have they not? I mean, has the Democratic Party let you down in terms of the level of outreach to young voters?

LOBEL: I think that we saw - we saw this victory last night because of the work of young organizers. I think that Democrats are doing a lot of good things. They have a lot to show, but they're - they need support on the showing front. That's where young organizers stepped in. We know Gen Z voters because we are Gen Z voters, and that's why our work at Voters of Tomorrow is so important, connecting with our peers. You know, the youth vote has always been an afterthought. Young people have always been left out of the conversation. We're starting to see that change now...

MARTIN: OK.

LOBEL: ...But for young voters - yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: Jack Lobel is the deputy communications director for Voters of Tomorrow. Thanks for your time this morning.

LOBEL: Thank you. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.