Young liberals convene to boost their generation's activism
Hundreds of young progressives from across the country are coming together in downtown Washington this week, hoping to energize youth advocacy on the left in the 2020 campaign and beyond.
The first-ever Youth Action Summit 2020 — fittingly shortened to "Yas! 2020"— kicked off Tuesday with a call for youth involvement in politics from Florida's Andrew Gillum, one of the nation's most prominent Democratic figures from Generation X.
At 23, while still a student at Florida A&M, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee city commission. He was elected mayor in 2014 when he was 35 and four years later lost the governorship by less than half a percentage point.
Gillum said he found a silver lining in his defeat: his contribution to boosting youth voter engagement. Three out every eight Floridians 18 to 29 voted in 2018, a whopping 15 percentage point increase from the previous gubernatorial election.
"The reason why we have chosen to invest so deeply in young people and the youth of our country is because for some reason y'all happen to be less encumbered," Gillum said. "You actually take time to say, 'If we had a couple of moments to dream, what would it look like?'"
So many people want to draw the political boundaries for the nation's biggest state that California's Citizens Redistricting Commission application deadline has been extended.
State Auditor Elaine Howle, who is in charge of an extraordinarily complex process for selecting the 14 "ordinary citizen" commissioners, set a new deadline of Aug. 19 after reporting she's received 13,735 applications in eight weeks — and that the papers are now coming in at a rate of 1,000 a day.
"Many more Californians who are learning more about redistricting and are developing an interest in the opportunity may now want to take advantage of the chance to draw California's congressional and state legislative district lines," she said in announcing the extension.
Turnout was boosted between 3 and 5 percentage points last year by mobile voting in West Virginia, the first state in the country to permit such balloting in a federal election.
Members of the armed forces and other overseas voters from 24 of the state's 55 counties were allowed to vote online in the midterm. The limited experiment was orchestrated by the Republican secretary of state, Mac Warner, who cited his own frustration in trying to vote while stationed overseas in the Army.
"The effects of voting online could potentially be even greater if it were implemented in a more convenient way," the University of Chicago's Anthony Fowler, who conducted the research, told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. "Mobile voting could have a profound impact on increasing voter turnout and potentially reduce inequalities in participation."
Lobbyists have come under increasing scrutiny, and calls for new legal prohibitions ignore both laws already on the books and constitutional protections, according to Paul A. Miller, president of the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics.
Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.
The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.
Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.
With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.
'Every single opportunity I have been afforded in this country can be traced back to the ratification of amendments.'
Wambui Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to regulate the raising and spending of electoral campaign funds. Originally from Connecticut, Gatheru, 24, joined the American Promise staff in 2017 after graduating from the University of Connecticut.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
American Promise is a cross-partisan organization committed to getting money out of politics, forever, with a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Knocking door-to-door in my small town in Connecticut when Barack Obama was first running for president.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
Being a part of the effort that made New Hampshire the 20th state in favor of the 28th Amendment. This was something I'd been working on since I started at American Promise two years ago, and the legislation was just passed in March of this year. It was a surreal victory because it had been such a long fight. It took a lot of coordination on every level of civic engagement, but it's a victory I'm happy to have been a part of here at American Promise.