Political News

Gen Z and Millennial groups launch effort to build coalition of young voters ahead of 2020 election

Posted October 1, 2020 5:20 p.m. EDT

— Gen Z and Millennial organizers are teaming up to build a coalition of progressive young Americans who want to defeat President Donald Trump, protect the ballot box and mobilize on youth issues.

The organizers with Dream Defenders, March For Our Lives, Sunrise Movement and United We Dream Action say that, with just under five weeks until Election Day, the "Count On Us" coalition aims to provide young people organizing for racial justice, climate justice, immigrant rights and against guns with a "political home."

Collectively, Dream Defenders, March For Our Lives, Sunrise and United We Dream have a combined network of hundreds of thousands of young people. Between now and November 3, Count On Us plans to mobilize their member networks through direct voter contact including phone banks, text banks, social media campaigns and in-person actions.

Count On Us will officially launch with an organizing call on Monday and the coalition has built a central landing page, where those who want to join the coalition can pledge.

Recognizing the intersectionality of the issues young voters care about as well as the scope of each individual movement involved, organizers say they are joining forces to harness their collective power and make their mark on the 2020 election and beyond.

"It's pretty unique for organizations as large and decentralized as ours to have this really strong tactic going into the election," Zina Precht-Rodriguez, the 24-year-old deputy creative director for Sunrise Movement, told CNN.

The alliance also seeks give a place to Gen Z and Millennials who want to get involved but don't know where to start.

While the organizations involved have worked together at times over the past four years, the launch of Count On Us marks the first time these groups are joining hands as a united front, the organizers said.

Organizers are mobilizing their networks just weeks ahead of Election Day.

Trump has suggested that he will not accept the results of the 2020 election on a number of occasions, including during this week's presidential debate. He has also sought to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election and refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

When asked if he would urge his supporters to stay calm around the time of the election, Trump said at Tuesday's debate, "I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully." Also during the debate, Trump refused to say whether he would concede should he lose the election.

In light of Trump's statements, Count On Us is prepared to mobilize what they're calling their "army of young people." They won't poll watch, Precht-Rodriguez said, but will demand that every vote is counted and will be prepared to take action, including taking to the streets.

"If Trump strikes a blow at our democracy, our generation will strike back," Count On Us says.

Still, Count On Us organizers will continue their fight regardless of who wins in November, organizers told CNN.

Biden struggled to gain youth support during the Democratic primary, including from the organizations in the Count On Us coalition. But young people are willing to back Biden in order to defeat Trump, organizers say.

However, if Biden is elected, Count On Us believes there is still room to push his administration to the left on the issues they care most about.

And organizers believe that by joining together, they can make more of a difference than they could alone.

"We have reached our most defining moment in electoral politics where our collective ability to push forward the flagship agendas of our generation will be determined not just by how we vote going into November, but how we mobilize the morning after Election Day," Precht-Rodriguez said. "This joint organizing platform will be the universal youth organizing tool of the foreseeable future through the election."

For its part, Sunrise Movement, the national youth-led climate justice organization that gained attention for its work in championing the Green New Deal and helped a number of progressive candidates win primary elections this election cycle, is already in talks with the Biden campaign and has worked to push Biden on the issue of climate.

According to Daud Mumin, 19-year-old student board member with March For Our Lives and an organizer with March For Our Lives' Utah chapter, the high youth voter turnout in the 2018 midterms was an "inspiration" of the March For Our Lives movement. Since then, "this idea that the youth are calling BS and enough is enough, inspired so many movements to stand up, be bold and active," Mumin told CNN.

Dream Defenders and United We Dream Action have also worked to mobilize young people in recent years.

Dream Defenders, a racial justice organization, was founded in 2012 following the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and serves as a hub for Black and Brown youth organizers in Florida.

And United We Dream Action PAC is the electoral arm of United We Dream, a youth-led immigrant network focused on policy solutions for immigrant communities. Cristina Jiménez, the 36-year-old founder of United We Dream, said the organization has grown since its start in 2008, and in that time has fought against the immigration policies of the Trump administration and advocated for an Obama-era program that shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Jiménez, an Ecuadorian immigrant herself, recently gained citizenship and will vote for the first time in the 2020 election.

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