Over the weekend, the “March For Our Lives” rally occurred in Washington, DC, and many other cities around the country. The main focus of the rally is to push for increased gun control at the state and federal level, but progressive groups also used the rallies as an opportunity to capture the motivation and encourage voter registration for the 2018 midterms. The DC march drew an estimated 200,000 people around the peak time of 1pm on Saturday, which was short of the 850,000 estimated by march organizers. However, other marches were held around the country which meant people could participate without the need of traveling to DC.
NBC News reports on the efforts of groups coast to coast in gathering new voters for the upcoming congressional elections:
At many of the March for Our Lives events across the United States on Saturday, speakers reminded the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance that there was an important way they could push for gun reform: register to vote and go to the polls.
According to many of the student speakers at the Washington rally, voting is the only way to pressure politicians to propose legislation that would meet the movement’s demands, which include universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“Let’s take this to our local legislators and let’s take this to midterm elections,” said David Hogg, one of the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who helped organize the march. “Because without the persistent heat, without the persistence of voters and Americans everywhere getting out to every election, democracy will not flourish.”
Just hoe many people did they actually reach? The numbers aren’t off the charts, but still represent a new voting pool of mostly younger voters who may be voting for the first time in the coming years:
HeadCount spokesman Aaron Ghitelman said volunteers, who were dressed in neon yellow or neon green shirts, were coming back with 10 to 20 filled-out voter forms each. And the young people who filled out those forms are from all over the country.
“That’s a really invigorating number,” Ghitelman said of the Washington returns. “I mean, damn that’s awesome.”
HeadCount also sent volunteers to the many other marches that occurred throughout the country, and several other organizations also worked to register students, parents and teachers at the massive demonstrations.
As of Sunday, Ghitelman said they had registered approximately 4,800 people across the country. [Emphasis added]
Nearly 5,000 people is decent for organizers considering that we are likely to see several very close races in 2018. Thinking about some of the major swing districts that went Trump in 2016, but may be poised to swing against him 2018, in some cases the difference could be hundreds of votes as we witnessed in the PA-18 special election. The other unmeasured factor is how many people leave the rallies and register to vote back in their home districts rather than hastily filling out clipboards on the street.
The key in 2018 will be voter enthusiasm. As we witnessed in 2010, conservatives were invigorated with the Tea Party which also held marches in DC and elsewhere. This brought out new Republican voters, many of whom had never voted before but joined in the cause in protest of the Obama administration’s policies.
Progressives are hoping to capitalize on the same sentiments in 2018, perhaps finding voters who have not voted, but may be inclined to come out and vote against the President in the midterms, or perhaps be motivated by the gun control issue.
As for whether the “March For Our Lives’ will generate any action on Capitol Hill, the short term signs indicate that neither party in Congress has much appetite for tackling the issue with both sides entrenched on particular details of what any new gun legislation should look like. Democrats initially were supportive of a minimalist bill which strengthened background checks, but they have since backed off that earlier support in favor of tougher measures.
Historically speaking, the issue of gun control has cut against Democrats and served only to motivate gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment. Democrats are trying to change that in 2018 in hoping that the mood has shifted in their favor after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, back in February. Time will tell if they’re successful, but the issue cuts both ways and gun owners may likely be just as motivated to get in the voting booth as their anti-gun counterparts will be.