By Michelle Feldman
Like any good politics nerd, I find myself occasionally looking over notes from my college political science classes. And with all of the talk about whether millennials will head to the polls or stay home for Philadelphia’s May 19 primary election, I can’t stop rereading articles and books from my senior year political psychology class.
There is a great deal of evidence that political attitudes and behaviors change throughout a person’s life due to events both political and personal in nature. And for Philly’s millennials, many of those major life events — getting married, having children, buying homes — are happening right now or are on the horizon. So they have a serious stake in the outcome of this election, which will shape the city, my generation, and our decisions, for years to come. If we’re privileged enough to have the choice, will we stay in Philadelphia? Or will we move to another city or the suburbs?
And there’s another factor that makes this election so critical for millennials and for the future of the city. Right now, there is a palpable civic energy and pride among the city’s millennials, for those Philly born-and-raised and transplants alike. In every neighborhood, from Point Breeze to the Northeast, we’re starting businesses and leading nonprofit organizations; more than a thousand people registered for Young Involved Philadelphia’s City Council Candidate Convention in April (full disclosure, I’m on the YIP board); and Pew’s recent polling shows that millennials have fallen in love with the city. It seems like every day I meet someone new in their twenties or thirties who has a passion for Philadelphia and, better still, is doing something to make the city better.
All of this means we’re at a crossroads: Millennials in Philadelphia are poised to set down roots here and continue to be leaders in making the city better, just as a major election could change the course of the city.
So what’s the first step for millennials in ensuring that Philadelphia continues to be a place where we want to live and raise a family?
Walking to the polls on May 19.
Philadelphians 18- to 30-years-old turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 (as did our millennial friends across the country). But that has not been the case in recent municipal elections. We can’t advocate effectively on a local level if we don’t show up to the polls.
Local officials make decisions every day on a wide range of issues that we know matter to millennials (and to Philadelphians of all ages), from city services to job creation, from crime to quality-of-life concerns. Millennials, who of course are not monolithic in belief or background, won’t be able to help shape solutions to problems if we don’t first show up to vote in large enough numbers.
There is a lot of hard work to be done on the issues of importance after Election Day (and millennials are not monolithic in belief or background), but casting your ballot is the right place to start. Don’t believe what we’re too often told: That the millennial vote doesn’t matter. Too many of us hear that and we don’t vote, and round and round we go.
The deadline to register for the May primary is April 20. If you — millennial or not — are not registered or need to update your registration, go to the Committee of 70’s website (www.seventy.org) for all of your election-related information needs: who your elected officials are, where your polling place is located, and how to register to vote or obtain an absentee ballot. Keep up with the mayoral and Council races, and learn about the candidates, at Philly.com’s #NextMayorPHL initiative.
And (shameless plug alert!), Young Involved Philadelphia will be hosting phone banks to call millennial voters and encourage them to turn out on primary day. Visit www.yiphilly.org if you want to help the next generation of Philadelphians cement their commitment to the city by voting on May 19.
Michelle Feldman is director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (www.keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org). firstname.lastname@example.org