The Latent Power Of Millennials in Philadelphia Politics
The exponential growth rate of millennials in Philadelphia is well known. Translating this fantastic growth into electoral muscle, however, has proven elusive. Nonetheless, if millennials get organized and vote, we have the potential to have a huge impact on state and local politics.
Roughly 390,000 people between the ages of 18-35 are residents of the City of Philadelphia, constituting 26% of the City’s total population. In Center City (which is roughly defined as Vine Street to South Street, Schuylkill River to Delaware River) 28.7% of the population is in the millennial age bracket. This demographic is also Philadelphia’s fastest growing, at a rate of 6.1% from 2006-2012.
This outstanding population growth has not translated into political power because of a lack of voter participation and millennial political organization. In May 2015, the last citywide election during a non-presidential year, millennials voted at an anemic rate of 12%. Approximately 321,342 millennials are registered to vote in Philadelphia, the largest number of any age demographic, yet only 38,686 actually came out to vote. The story is similar if you break the numbers down by ward.
Imagine the revolution in Philadelphia politics if millennials voted in local and state elections at the same rate they voted in Presidential elections. In 2012, roughly 61% of millennials voted. If that number voted in the 2015 May election, an additional 192, 805 voters would be added to the electorate. Considering the top vote getter in the mayoral race on the Democratic side, Jim Kenney, received 128,398 votes, increasing the millennial participation would be a true game changer. Certainly, the manner in which Philadelphia conducts its elections, particularly its closed mayoral primary, excludes many millennials who are independent voters and dampens turnout in a way that is not as present in general elections. However, the inescapable truth is that with the most registered voters, millennials have a huge opportunity to influence state and local government if we just voted.
One of the reasons millennials struggle to consistently vote is that the demographic is not organized. No organization exists that provides a millennial focused voter registration, get out the vote, or fundraising effort. Without organization, millennials are unable to place sustained pressure on the political system to influence decisions and achieve favorable policy outcomes. This places millennials at a disadvantage to other interests that are far more organized. For example, the AARP has done a tremendous job at organizing voters age 50 and older to make sure that issues important to that group are protected and advanced.
Millennial voter apathy must change. Millennials, by their sheer number, can have an enormous influence on the upcoming elections. If we want more ethical, transparent and smarter government; government that focus on the issues important to us in a serious and thoughtful manner; government that is more concerned with making a difference than protecting its own power- we must vote. Philly Set Go is committed to organizing and engaging millennials to make sure our voices are hard. We believe that through sustained millennial engagement, the quality of our state and local governance will improve, benefiting us all.