Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2019

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Groups plan push to register young Nevada voters with start of school

'Keeping Up with the Candidates'

Miranda Alam/Special to The Sun

Attendees cheer during the Keeping Up with the Candidates panel hosted by NextGen America at Three Square in Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

Democratic and progressive groups are boosting efforts to register young voters as students return to class this month.

Nevada is one of 11 states where NextGen America is coordinating high school and college campus voter registration drives with the goal of registering 3,000 Nevada students in August, NextGen state spokeswoman Kate Frauenfelder said. The group plans to be on 10 Nevada college campuses next week — including UNR and UNLV — as students begin to arrive for the fall semester.

“This is the biggest part of our program and really the most important part as college students return to campus,” Frauenfelder said.

NextGen, a group backed by Democrats which targets the age 18 to 35 demographic, has collected 4,218 voter registrations in Nevada out of 83,316 nationwide so far this election cycle. In Nevada, a new law means the group can also pre-register 17-year-olds who will be 18 on Election Day, Frauenfelder said.

The Our Lives, Our Vote initiative is geared toward eligible teen voters in 10 states where candidates aligned with the National Rifle Association are running for office, including Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt, who has received thousands in NRA money, is running to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The $1.75 million initiative is financially supported by NextGen America, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, and progressive group ACRONYM. The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada is partnering on the initiative at the state level.

Groups and individuals tied to the address of the NRA’s headquarters in Fairfax, Va., have put nearly $7 million in monetary and in-kind contributions to Nevada groups and politicians from 2006 to 2017, according to disclosures from the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.

The total number of young registered voters in Nevada has increased since the last midterm election year, though 17-year-olds were not eligible to preregister in 2014. There were more than 372,000 people ages 18 to 34 registered to vote in July 2014 compared to more than 473,000 residents this year, including those who would be 18 in time to vote through 34-year-olds.

TargetSmart, a firm that conducts research for Democratic groups, did an analysis of young voters and found a 2 percent uptick nationwide in registered voters ages 18 to 29 following a shooting at a high school in Florida that killed 17 people. Survivors of the shooting became national symbols of gun control advocacy, traveling the country in support of new laws to prevent shootings.

Frauenfelder said these newly-registered young voters tend to be progressives or Democrats, but the group’s efforts focus on all voters, including nonpartisans and Republicans. She said the group recently held a statewide training for its new volunteers and staff in Nevada to ensure they are being inclusive of all political ideologies.

“We want to make sure when they’re out in the field, they’re registering everyone no matter what,” she said.

Republicans also push college and high school voter registration, with the Republican National Committee hosting drives on campuses and working with student groups, said spokeswoman Keelie Broom. She said the group also has for-credit internships at UNLV, UNR and Great Basin College in Elko.

For the first three months of the year, Republicans were closing the gap with Democrats in statewide active voter registrations. Over the last four months, Democrats made gains, but they are still roughly 9,400 registrations shy from reaching the advantage they had in January of more than 75,500 registrations.

“College and high school engagement and recruitment is a cornerstone of our permanent, data-driven ground game,” Broom said in a statement. “Our youth engagement efforts are ongoing and don’t start and stop with the school year.”