New York Group Launches $9 Million Youth Voter Drive

Organize New York, a new, nonpartisan initiative created by a liberal group, plans to spend $9 million registering and mobilizing young voters in New York ahead of federal elections in 2024 in which the Empire State stands to play a major role.

Although the organizing drive is nonpartisan and will not involve campaigning for specific candidates or parties, the Democratic group End Citizens United is funding and running the initiative through its advocacy arm, the End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund. Polling data consistently shows that the youngest voters in the country generally lean liberal in their views, but do not vote in high numbers.

The group will also be focusing its efforts exclusively on New York’s six battleground House seats in central New York, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. Those seats, all of which President Joe Biden carried in 2020, are New York’s 3rd, 4th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 22nd congressional districts.

“New York is the center of the political universe. We have more swing districts than any other state,” said former Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a senior advisor to Organize New York. “The days of elected officials being able to take this for granted are far gone.”

Organize New York plans to use its funds to employ field organizers, as well as finance digital advertisements and direct-mail items.

The field organizers are tasked with identifying and registering to vote 20,000 New York undergraduate and graduate students between the ages of 18 and 26. The target districts are home to major college campuses such as Syracuse University, Binghamton University and SUNY New Paltz.

Organize New York will then seek to “educate” these young voters about the importance of voting in the election through events, advertising and other messages. The group’s pitch about the stakes of the election is likely to focus on the need to get money out of politics, fight climate change, curb gun violence, protect abortion rights, and obtain student loan relief.

“Young voters are frustrated with a system that they feel is broken and not listening to them and leaving them behind,” said Tiffany Mueller, president of End Citizens United Action Fund. “And the way that we’re going to change that system is by making sure that they are participating in our democracy and see their power in doing so.”

The final stage of the project will be a massive turnout operation that aims to contact everyone ages 18 to 26 who did not vote in 2022, and secure 90,000 pledges to vote from voters in that cohort.

Organize New York is one of several Democratic or progressive-backed efforts with the direct or indirect goal of helping Democrats take back the House. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn is spearheading a new coordinated campaign within the New York State Democratic Party designed to centralize efforts to take back GOP-held New York House seats.

Former Rep. Max Rose (right) is a senior advisor to Organize New York. He failed to retake his seat in 2022 amid a generally weak performance for Empire State Democrats.

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

And Battleground New York, an effort backed by progressive labor unions and groups like the Working Families Party, plans to spend at least $10 million on a field organizing of voters of all ages.

The various initiatives, which Organize New York sees as complementary, all reflect a recognition that New York was a uniquely weak state for Democrats in 2022. That year, Republicans flipped four House seats ― the 3rd, 4th, 17th and 19th ― with help from a strong, though ultimately unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee, Lee Zeldin.

“New York’s political infrastructure is broken. New York does not have any history of paying attention to its politics. And that’s from either party,” said Rose, who lost a bid to flip his old seat in 2022. “If you compare the activity in New York to that in presidential swing districts ― it’s night and day in terms of outreach, in terms of engagement, in terms of getting out the vote for either party. It’s a disaster and it’s a disgrace and it needs to change.”

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