Student activists motivate millennials to vote with focus on climate change

Originally published by KYW Newsradio on September 24, 2018

A non-partisan climate advocacy group kicked off an effort near Temple to get more millennial voters to the polls

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday and student activists are gearing up to motivate millennials to get to the polls this November, with one of the key focuses being climate change.

“Every day we’re doing something to make sure that this mid-term election is a powerful one,” said Sydney Fowlkes, an intern and volunteer at Defend Our Future, a non-partisan advocacy group focused on climate change policies. The 20-year-old says their big focus is millennials like her; only 20 percent cast a ballot in 2014 midterms as compared to 40 percent of Gen-Xers and 50 percent of baby boomers.

“We do canvassing and we do tabling here on Temple’s campus,” she said, “and we do phone banking and phone calls- we want to reach thousands.”

The group claims recent EPA safety and health regulation roll backs is galvanizing the country’s youngest voting block.

“We have the momentum in this country, we have the momentum in this city, and we have momentum on Temple University’s campus,” said Tykee James, who began his environmental activist work while a student at Temple. He now works for a Pennsylvania state representative and believes young voters could focus the national political conversation on environmental justice.

“Voting is our most powerful and essential right,” said James, “even the haters know — voting works — so if we value clean air and preserving our environment we must vote for people who support that.”

According to Pew Research, millennials will reach 73 million, surpassing the number of baby boomers by 2019, becoming the U.S.’s largest adult generation. James and the others are hoping to cash in on the influence by getting millennials more engaged. Defend Our Future says they will be getting the word out about polling locations and encouraging young voters to head to the ballot box in groups.

“They are the future, they are the ones that carry the message,” said Rep. Dwight Evans. He says increasing millennial voter turn out in the midterms is “critical.”

“More than any other election I’ve seen in my life, this is one is life or death,” he emphasized, “life or death.”

The voter registration deadline is Oct. 9. Election Day is Nov. 6.