What 2018 Taught Us

When we launched Generation Vote in 2017, we were a few students finishing up our Junior year at Binghamton University — sitting in an unused classroom, blasting “My Generation,” and brainstorming how we can use our new model of engagement to get our friends excited about local politics after 2016. We had just come off of a historic grassroots campaign and won a County Executive race — and we were even more fired up to use what we had learned after Trump rose to power and attacked everything that our generation believes in.

In this political moment, we knew we couldn’t sit around. So we got to work.

We built our first GenVote “proto-type teams,” worked our way through Binghamton’s business accelerator program, and won the Social Entrepeneurship category in the Southern Tier Regional Business Plan Competition. We believed in slow, strategic growth to make sure that our model for engaging young people worked. And this past year proved that it does.

CEO Brianna Cea and COO Garrett Shor presenting GenVote

In less than a year, we started five teams across the state of New York, built an original training program with innovative trainings like Student Constituency Organizing and How to Build A Youth Platform, started our national advisory board, expanded our national staff and mentored our teams through one of the most significant election years of the last decade (we also graduated college and moved to the Big Apple — so that’s nice).

The past year gave us a crucial opportunity to prove the value of the GenVote model, and empower GenVoters to make a difference in their communities.This year, we’re building a roadmap to expand our impact and empower young people into crucial states.

How do we know that our model works and that we are ready to grow?

Because Genvoters made the difference this past year!

GenVote @ Binghamton with U.S. Representative Anthony Brindisi

GenVote @ Binghamton and GenVote @ Cortland partnered with newly elected Congressman Anthony Brindisi’s campaign for the House of Representatives, and helped tip the balance in one of the closest swing districts in the entire country. At Binghamton University alone, campus turnout increased by 325% over the last midterm election, and districts off campus with large student populations saw increases in turnout, most by over 50%. On Election night, Brindisi had a roughly 1600 vote lead, with 1400 votes coming from Binghamton’s campus alone, and more from off campus. It’s no secret that students played a decisive role in the election. (When all the absentees and affidavit ballots came in, the margin expanded to about 4,000 votes, but many of those came from students as well.)

Our teams were able to elevate youth issues by repeatedly bringing then-Assemblyman Brindisi to campus for GenVote Student Rallies, Meet-and-Greets, and town halls. Brindisi formally endorsed their Youth Platform, promised to fight for issues that young people care about and elevated young people in his campaign. In return, GenVoters knocked on over 2,000 doors, registered over 300 students, and called hundreds of voters. They used our training to run dedicated, aggressive communications and field campaigns to drive turnout and swing the race.

GenVote @ UAlbany students at the Let NY Vote Summit in Albany

Meanwhile, GenVote @ UAlbany helped make history for all New Yorkers by fighting for voting rights with the Let NY Vote coalition. They helped organize a coalition to hold civic education classes and register voters at the Albany County Jail, took a lead role in their campus’ civic engagement committee, and co-lead advocacy efforts in the Capital Region for Let NY Vote. While they were busy making history, they ran a student opinion research survey, and built the first Youth Platform in their community — which they used to partner with State Senate candidate Pat Strong. In the last three weeks of the campaign, they reached out to thousands of voters and ran the first coordinated GOTV campaign on UAlbany’s campus.

GenVote @ Oneonta spent most of the past semester getting started and going through our training program. But their team leader, Ben Reynolds, also found time to run for and WIN local office. He is now a Johnson City Trustee. He was able to use the training and mentorship offered by GenVote to run a grassroots campaign and win office. Ben is now one of the youngest elected officials in office.

And our National Staff is hard at work!

This past year, we expanded our National Staff to provide the best possible support for our teams and grow the organization (and because Brianna and Garrett were getting lonely). We’re proud to welcome Scott Benson as our Chief Technology Officer and Rory Doehring as our Director of Development and Budgeting. They both bring a unique set of skills to their roles and have already begun to help us grow our profile and build our fundraising plan.

We are also proud to have our Youth Advisory Board to help guide us along. We are so thrilled to work with these amazing leaders: Bushra Amiwala, a youth leader in Illinois, former candidate for Cook County Commissioner and current candidate for school board, Conrad Taylor, Binghamton City Councilman and one of the youngest elected officials in New York, Ramon Contreras, Co-Founder of Youth Over Guns and 2018 National Field Strategist for March for Our Lives, and Cory Ott, our former Program Manager who is getting his Masters at the Institute for World Politics. These experienced youth activists are ready to help us bring GenVote to young people across the country.

So now you might be wondering, “What’s Next?”

Well, we’re glad you asked. We are working right now to refine our training program, expand our partnership network, build our fundraising network, and start teams across the country. This is all to make sure that GenVoters are ready to make a difference in 2020, which will certainly be one of the most important election years in the history of our country.

We’re raising funds to launch a movement that can transform the way young people organize in their political communities. And you can sign up to start a GenVote team at your school, or work with us as a candidate.

We started because we didn’t think that our voices were being heard in the political process. Now that we’ve figured out how to unleash the power of our generation, we’re ready to do more. We’re ready to be #GenerationVote.