Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 had the lowest turnout of any age group in the 2020 general election, so NextGen America is getting ahead of the statistics for Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 midterms with a new campaign: Hot Girls Vote.
“Not a lot of people realize how much power we as young voters have,” Philly social media influencer Zoe Stoller told Billy Penn. With close to 100k followers across Instagram and TikTok, they make educational videos about issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. And as an ambassador for NextGen — the country’s largest youth voter organization — they create social media content that highlights the importance of voting.
“If we band together, we can truly make our voices heard and also help underrepresented identities be seen and accommodated and accounted for within our political system.”
The campaign’s name is a play on the “Hot Girl Walk” TikTok trend coined by Mia Lind, which is just a funny way of saying you’re talking a silly little stroll for your mental health. And anyone can participate.
“Hot Girls of all backgrounds, sexualities, and gender identities are voting to show their power and change their communities for the better,” reads the marketing toolkit for the initiative. “And that’s hot.”
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NextGen’s goal for the meme-ified voter outreach campaign is to register over 29,000 Pennsylvania young people to vote. (The deadline in Pa. is Oct. 24, and you can register online here.)
Their focus is on women between 18 and 35 — a demographic D’Angelo Virgo, NextGen’s Pennsylvania state director, said is essential to determining the state’s next senator and governor, plus a slew of down ballot elections.
“We’re making sure that people can understand the language we’re using,” said Shelby Purdum, a spokesperson for NextGen. “Everybody wants to be a hot girl, and so we decided to empower that phrase and that ethos with voting.”
NextGen was founded in 2013 by former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer to empower millennials to head to the polls. Since then, the organization has registered over 1.4 million young people to vote nationwide, but some are worried disillusionment with President Joe Biden’s performance will be an obstacle in getting out the Gen Z vote.
Purdum hopes the campaign will resonate with young voters, nearly half of whom get their election news from platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.
NextGen supplies ambassadors like Stoller with data and talking points, but Stoller said they maintain almost complete creative control to “spread information in a way that people will indeed watch.”
Offline, NextGen is registering people to vote in places young people often frequent, like farmers’ markets and concerts. At each physical station, organizers are giving out free tote bags, pens, and stickers emblazoned with the “Hot Girls Vote” logo as a trendy voting reminder.
The Hot Girls Vote team is also stationed on 32 college campuses throughout the Philly region and the rest of Pennsylvania. Virgo, the political director, said students of all gender identities visited the bright pink tables — which she found surprising, given Gen Z’s tendency to avoid face-to-face contact.
“Being a millennial, I’m more used to that face-to-face interaction,” Virgo said. “Whereas in Gen Z, I feel like they’re more like: ‘Okay, I’ll text you. I’ll call you.'”
Virgo said the biggest obstacle NextGen faces is voter apathy, especially on college campuses across the state, where students often “feel like their voice doesn’t matter or doesn’t count.”
Tufts University ranked Pennsylvania as one of the top 10 states with the most potential for youth voter impact, and the race for Pat Toomey’s open U.S Senate seat appears to be competitive — making the youth vote all the more important.
Stoller’s advice to Gen Zer’s in Pennsylvania: “Have faith in your voice. You have so much more power than you think you have.”