Early voting has been going on in Florida for more than a week now, and the results so far have been strong. Totals in Orange County and Lake County have favored Democrats and surpassed those set during the last midterm cycle in 2014. One million voters have shown up to vote early, and an additional 1.7 have voted by mail. However, the latest calculations show that Florida Republicans have cast 42% of these votes to Democrats' 41% - only one percentage point.
How does something like this happen? There are the usual answers, one being that Republicans are better about voting by mail and Democrats are better about voting in-person. And it's also true that, like many Florida elections, independents will have a big say in who gets elected. So far they have cast 486,773 ballots, and it's too soon to tell how they've voted.
But the biggest problem is this: young people aged 18-29 may make up 27% of Florida's electorate but as of this Monday, they have only made up 5% of the early vote. By contrast, 51.4% of all ballots cast so far are from Florida seniors aged 65 and up.
Polling Results Obfuscate More Than Illuminate
This is not to say that young people don't plan on voting, or haven't registered to vote yet. According to a new study released by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, young Americans are more likely to vote in this election than in either 2014 or 2010, and 54% of likely voters said they would vote for Democrats.
The downside of this survey is that it says Republican enthusiasm has grown by seven points since the last time Harvard took it. Part of this may have to do with the RNC's youth engagement programs, which include high school fellowships and leadership summits. If Democrats reading this article want to change the way their party is handling youth engagement, they might want to steal from that.
The poll's spikes in Democratic enthusiasm also come from a negative place: 65% of young voters are more fearful than they are hopeful for America's future, and 59% said they'd become more fearful if the GOP held on to Congress. As Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural, fear "paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
Young Voters Advance
All that said, there is still time for young Floridians to turn this around since they have been registering in numbers like we haven't seen in years.
Organizers have expressed confidence about Florida all year, none the least because of the Parkland shooting. Young Floridians made up a quarter of their state's new registrants in the 2 1/2 months before Parkland, but jumped up to 34% in the 2 1/2 months following. March For Our Lives has also gone to every congressional district in the state to register young voters. Thanks to these efforts, the three youngest generations - Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z - now make up 52% of the Florida electorate.
Less certain to drive youth turnout is the new presence of voting sites on college campuses, where anybody - not just students - can cast their ballots. Governor Rick Scott tried to ban these, but the ban was overturned last summer. So far though, they have not produced sufficient results among young people, since most of them tend to vote by mail.
People have been talking all year about a blue wave overtaking the country on Election Day, but the closer we get to November 6th, the more we cannot afford to take this for granted. A blue wave will only happen if everyone shows up to the polls, and that begins with young people. In a state like Florida, that's well-known for having close elections, it will make all the difference.