Shifting the Political Narrative

July 31, 2019

Student-Led Uprising Shifts the Narrative in American Political Discourse

PSB joins youth-led non-profit to help register as many young voters as possible before the 2018 Midterm Elections. Ahead of 2020, we’re re-tooling and gearing up for a series of national town hall debates.

As Sari Kaufman was getting ready for school on the morning of 14 February 2018, she could not possibly have imagined how radically her life was about to change. 

Kaufman is a survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School Shooting an all-too-familiar example of America’s gun violence epidemic. While Kaufman’s hometown of Parkland is located in South Florida, this event has reshaped the political landscape across the United States. Sari – along with other student activists – has picked up the mantel of civil rights leaders to make young voices heard.

Unlike March for Our Lives – which was born out of the same tragedy and advocates for stricter gun control measures –  Kaufman and a cadre of classmates launched Empower the People, a youth-led non-profit that aimed to register as many young voters as possible before the November 2018 Midterm Elections in the United States. PSB joined the youth movement in summer 2018, offering pro bono strategic advice to ensure the non-profit was organizationally prepared for their get out the vote efforts.

“We realized that in order to be heard, our generation needed to show up,” said Kaufman. “So we started the hard work of mobilizing the age group most people usually ignore – even though we’re inheriting all the problems of the current generation of leadership.”

Their efforts paid off: thanks to Empower the People and countless other groups, youth voter registration increased in Florida by 41 percent over 2014’s Midterm Election – the biggest jump of any age group. National-level data suggests that ballots cast by young voters (18 – 29) are up 31 percent from 2014.

According to researchers at Tufts University, this was the highest turnout in a quarter century for a Midterm election and marked the first time votes cast surpassed the 100 million mark in a non-presidential election cycle.

PSB has continued working with Empower the People as a strategic partner in 2019.  Our team has provided insights to help the group expand its geographic reach – from Florida to all 50 states. By offering our expertise in engaging local and national politicians, leveraging our strategic communications capabilities and honing new approaches to organizational capacity, we are proud partners with the students as their journey enters a new phase.

This spring, Empower the People hosted its first community-led town hall debate in Orlando. With the 2020 election on the horizon, PSB will continue to work with Empower the People to further help the students promote civic discourse through an additional two town halls planned through November 2020. The debate series is meant to bring together constituencies who do not always see eye to eye in an effort to foster free and equal discourse.

The Insights That Count

  • PSB was proud to work with Empower the People over the last year, providing strategic guidance surrounding their registration and GOTV efforts.
  • Outlets such as the Miami Herald and the Associated Press ran stories mentioning the 2018 voter registration efforts undertaken by Empower the People.
  • Since the midterms, PSB has been offering organizational advice, helping the group explore additional paths to enhancing civic discourse and engagement – including partnership development, strategic positioning of future events and political advice.

For more information on PSB’s engagement with Empower the People, you can contact Cole Ryan at [email protected].

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