In 2020’s life-changing election, Oregon’s young people voted at the highest ever rate on record. That record was not a coincidence. Working alongside our coalition partners and allies, Next Up has been breaking down structural barriers to voting, boosting youth voter turnout, and broadening the leadership pipeline for the last 18 years. Long story short, we’ve been kicking butt and taking names.
But only by working together could we reach our goals and smash records for youth voter turnout in the election.
At Next Up, we envision a world in which young people boldly lead the state, our democracy is inclusive and accessible, and our communities are strong and resilient. But in a system built on white supremacy, oppression, and exclusion, Oregon’s halls of power have been overwhelmingly run by the white and wealthy.
That’s why we’re focused on breaking down barriers to voting for young people and communities of color. Our work has made voting more accessible: winning paid postage on mail-in ballots, passing automatic voter registration, training young people in peer-to-peer voter registration. As a result, even during a pandemic and economic crisis, we saw an unprecedented 10% spike in youth voter turnout in Oregon relative to 2016, and a dramatic increase in voter registration in communities of color.
The 2020 election may be behind us, but we know we need to keep expanding the right to vote and keep young people engaged to hold our elected officials accountable. That’s why, in 2021, our top legislative priorities include the restoration of voting rights for Oregonians in prison and implementing state standards for a high school civics curriculum. Everyone deserves the chance to have a voice in our democratic process. Everyone deserves the chance to build power in the systems that shape our lives.
The generous support of our community, donors, friends and funders made it possible for us to continue expanding voter access and building powerful youth leadership. Together, we’re investing in the fight that brings us closer to the democracy of our dreams.
Executive Director, Next Up & Next Up Action Fund