Philadelphia finally has some good news when it comes to millennials and voting.
The generation that now comprises the entirety of the traditionally voting-averse 18-to-34 demographic turned out to vote at a much higher rate last month than it did in the 2013 city election and at nearly the same rate as during the 2015 election, which was a much more popular mayoral race. On top of that, the 18-to-34 age group increased its turnout more than any other age group between 2013 and 2017. Turnout in general for this year’s DA/City Controller election was higher than it had been in 15 years.
The numbers were just released by Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt this afternoon. His office found that 33,686 votes were cast by people aged 18-to-34 as mostly Democrats but also a few thousand Republicans and Democrats. The number represents a 279 percent increase in votes by the same age group from 2013, the last District Attorney/City Controller race.
Perhaps more importantly, voting numbers for young Philadelphians compared favorably to the much more hyped 2015 mayor’s race. Then, 38,000 people age 18-to-34 voted, meaning only 5,000 fewer votes were cast by the same age group in this election. The numbers for the other age groups dropped exponentially when comparing 2015 to 2017: by 20,000 for 35-to-49 year olds, by 39,000 for 50-to-64 year olds and by 25,000 for the 65-plus set.
The 33K votes represented 19 percent of total votes, meaning millennials represented about one-fifth of voters. That’s still lower than their share of the Philly population — it’s between 25 and 30 percent — but much higher than in recent elections. In 2013, 18-to-34 year olds comprised 10 percent of voters and in 2015, for that mayor’s race, about 14 percent.
Now, it’s important we not get carried away with the good news. There’s still plenty of bad. The fact that 33K 18-to-34 year olds voted is good for just 10 percent turnout, given nearly 350,000 people in this age group are registered. That’s much higher than the 3 percent turnout — seriously, 3 percent?! — of 2013 and about the same as the 12 percent in the 2015 mayoral race… but still painfully low.
What was it that made millennials turn out more than last time? At least some of it likely had to do with the candidates. Larry Krasner, Democratic nominee for District Attorney, was considered a Bernie Sanders-esque candidate and drew substantial support in millennial-heavy neighborhoods. Rebecca Rhynhart, Democratic nominee for City Controller, was also an outsider candidate.