That trend is likely to continue into the 2020 election, and young people are the most reliably progressive voting bloc, said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., which provides voter information to campaigns and other groups.
The 65% overall turnout in 2018 is likely to jump to 80% in November 2020, “and that new 15 percent isn’t going to be older, whiter and more conservative voters,” Mitchell said. “About 80% of the new voters are going to be younger and more progressive.”
The new voting numbers are a glimpse into a bleak political future for Republicans, at least in the short term.
“There was a blue wave in 2018, and the numbers suggest it might not have reached its peak,” Mitchell said.
Democratic turnout across the country was way up in 2018, which is one of the main reasons the party flipped 40 Republican-held seats in the House, including seven in California. New state voting and registration rules have become even more friendly to young California voters, Mitchell said.
Not only are more people being automatically registered via the “motor voter” program at Department of Motor Vehicle offices, but their registrations also are automatically updated when they file change-of-address notices.
“This has been most beneficial to the people who move a lot,” and in California, those are most likely to be young people, Mitchell said. Now, instead of falling off the voter rolls whenever they change addresses, those young voters stay registered.
The USC study found that 62% of citizens ages 18 to 24 were registered to vote in 2018, compared with 52% in 2014.
Voter turnout in 2018 also rose in ethnic communities, both nationwide and in California. In the state, four times as many Latinos ages 18 to 34 cast ballots in 2018 as they had four years earlier. And the growing number of young Asian American voters tend to be far more liberal than their GOP-leaning parents and grandparents, Mitchell said.
Combine those 2018 turnout numbers with the boost Democrats typically get in a presidential election that attracts plenty of occasional voters, and 2020 looks like a hard climb for the GOP in California, especially with Trump on the top of the ballot, Mitchell added.
But better times could be ahead for the state’s Republicans.
“You can assume that the increased turnout will carry forward to 2020,” Mitchell said. “But if there’s a Democrat in the White House, turnout numbers might fall off the cliff in 2022.”
The 2022 midterm election also will be the first with California’s congressional and legislative seats redrawn after the 2020 census, and no one knows what effect that might have on the state’s political landscape.
“With reapportionment and a possible Democratic president, 2022 could present an opportunity for Republicans,” Mitchell said.