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Will Younger Voters Turn Out?

Your biweekly analysis of election news and the people who run for office.

Four women standing at voting poll booths
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Will Younger Voters Turn Out?: Voters under the age of 30 headed to the polls in much higher numbers in 2018 and 2020 than they had in prior elections, helping propel Democrats to victories in Congress and the presidency. Their lack of enthusiasm this year is one of the Democrats’ major headaches.

President Biden’s poll numbers are poor generally but have sunk like a stone among the young. Shortly after taking office last year, Biden enjoyed approval from 70 percent of voters under 30, according to CBS News polling. By the beginning of this year, only 42 percent approved. That’s a much bigger decline than Biden has seen among other age groups.

Younger voters are more likely to be persons of color and identify as LGBTQ+ and less likely to attend church regularly than older generations. They are also more likely to support Democrats. Biden took more than 60 percent of the youth vote in 2020 against President Donald Trump, according to exit polls. Democrats did even better among the young in the 2018 elections. Both those elections saw big increases in youth voting over the previous midterm and presidential elections in 2014 and 2016.

But Democrats can’t count on the same performance come November. Biden has canceled $17 billion worth of student debt, but that’s a lot less than he promised while campaigning and he hasn’t received much political credit for it. His new budget, released this week, does not request any funding for student loan forgiveness or payment pauses.

Young voters traditionally vote in much lower numbers than older generations. In part, that’s because of structural barriers that make life more difficult for first-time voters and registrants, according to a new report from the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.

But, like everyone else, young people are more likely to vote if they’re inspired by one candidate or repelled by another. As with other Democratic voting groups, the young seem less enthusiastic about voting this year than Republicans. “We are seeing that younger voters who were voting in some of these elections because of Trump don’t seem to be inspired by Biden, and I think their turnout will fall back to traditional levels,” said GOP consultant John Brabender.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Why Won’t You Just Go Away: Remember Andrew Cuomo? The former New York governor stepped down last summer as he faced a long list of credible charges of sexual harassment. Well, Cuomo is talking about running for his old job again, perhaps at the head of a new party.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who replaced her fellow Democrat when Cuomo resigned, appears to be in good shape as she seeks a full term of her own. She quickly gathered enough support to drive state Attorney General Letitia James, a potential rival, from the race. A new poll from the Siena College Research Institute shows Hochul leading Cuomo in a potential Democratic primary matchup, but by only 38 percent to 30 percent.

Perhaps that represents a ceiling for Cuomo, but he does not lack continuing support. The poll found that he leads Hochul by a large margin among Black voters and narrowly among Latinos. Intriguingly, Hochul has a 15 percentage point lead among men, but just a 4 percentage point advantage among women.

South Dakota state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
South Dakota state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg
Why Won’t You Just Go Away, Part II: In 2020, Jason Ravnsborg, the state attorney general of South Dakota, struck and killed Joseph Boever, a pedestrian, with his car. Ravnsborg initially claimed he had struck an animal. He pleaded no contest last August to a pair of traffic misdemeanors but has not served any jail time – and he certainly hasn’t resigned his post as the state’s top law enforcement official.

On Monday, a select committee of the South Dakota House voted down a recommendation of impeachment against Ravnsborg, determining that the killing was not related to his official duties. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that she still hopes the House as a whole will “do the right thing.”

“Jason Ravnsborg killed a man, lied to investigators about the events of that night, and attempted to cover it up,” Noem tweeted. “Joseph Boever’s family deserves justice.”

Movie poster of The Distinguished Gentleman
What’s in a Name: John T. Myers represented a congressional district in western Indiana for 30 years. The rare opportunity for an open shot at the seat drew a large field of contenders when he stepped down in 1996. When I went out to cover the race (yes, I’ve been doing this a long time), I managed to offend one of them.

His name was John Meyers, and he bristled at my suggestion that he could be trading on the resemblance of his name to the incumbent’s. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist writing about The Distinguished Gentleman, a 1992 comedy in which Eddie Murphy played a con man named Jeff Johnson who successfully ran to replace a congressman named Jeff Johnson, using the slogan “the name you know.”

Meyers didn’t win, but I’ve run into a lot of sound-alike contenders in the years since. Mike Doyle has represented Pittsburgh in Congress for nearly 30 years but is not running this year. Sure enough, there is a Mike Doyle running to replace him. That Mike Doyle is the only Republican in the field so far. If he makes it to the general, perhaps he can pick up some support among confused supporters of his namesake incumbent Democrat.
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Alan Greenblatt is the editor of Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @AlanGreenblatt.
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