Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish urged 18-year-olds and other first-time voters to vote in the upcoming presidential election during the Every Vote Counts: A Celebration of Democracy broadcast on Thursday.
“To all the 18-year-olds out there, like me, who can vote for the first time this year: Do it,” Eilish said. “If you care about yourself, your family and your friends, and our future, vote.”
Other first-time voters joined the segment to share their experiences and celebrated their participation in the election after weathering long lines, COVID-19 disruptions, and waves of misinformation.
These voters are part of a surge in youth voter turnout across the country, according to CNN. Early voting among people aged 18 to 29 has risen by as much as 30% in some states, Vox reports. The rise in voter turnout among young people reflects an enthusiasm and an appreciation for the importance of voting that was on display during the Every Vote Counts broadcast.
“I come from the Ho-Chunk Nation and I am also a first-time voter,” said Memphis Cleveland, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Black River Falls, Wisconsin. “I need more people like me and my tribal members to be in places like Congress, and [I need] to see people who look like me and know the struggles I go through on a daily basis.”
Others shared how voting felt like a way to help their communities.
“This is my first time voting,” said Alexa Rodriguez, from Baltimore, Maryland. “I’m a transgender woman. I’m so excited because I represent my community and I'm voting for you.”
Young voters are turning out to vote for a range of issues this election, especially racism, climate change, and health care, according to a survey by Tufts University.
The surge in voting has been accompanied by broader civic engagement, Tufts found.
Compared to 2018, young people have been more likely this year to try to convince friends to vote, donate to a campaign, attend a march or demonstration, register others to vote, and volunteer for a campaign.
Youth voter registration has increased as a result, even as the COVID-19 pandemic complicated get out the vote efforts. In the battleground state of Georgia, youth voter registration has increased by 33% compared to 2016, according to CNN. Across the country, momentum from the 2018 midterm elections, which saw record youth voter turnout, is being carried into the presidential election, CNN notes.
First-time voters are largely part of Gen Z, the most diverse and well-educated demographic age group in US history. In the years ahead, young voters will likely transform the political landscape.
“I’m a 23-year-old female marine corp veteran,” said Chioma Okoroapor from State College, Pennsylvania, during Every Vote Counts. “And voting in this election means so much to me because there were times when I felt I couldn’t because I was African American and I couldn’t because I was female.
“Voting in America means that I get to play a part in a country that I served and a country that I love,” she said.