Here's what's happening with voter registration among young people since Parkland.

Historically, politicians have ignored youth voices because they don’t show up to the polls. But new data shows that might be changing.

When it comes to voting, younger adults aren't exactly known for their reliability, especially when compared with older populations. In 2016, the Census Bureau notes just 46.1% of Americans between ages 18 and 29 reported voting (58.7% of people 30 to 44, 66.6% of people 45 to 64, and 70.9% of citizens over 65 reported voting).

Knowing this, you almost can't blame politicians for putting the interests of older generations ahead of issues that might have more of an effect on the young, such as climate change. But there's reason to believe the youth are waking up, and they understand this is their country. If they want to shape the future, they need to participate in the democratic process.


Voters cast ballots on June 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

What makes 2018 different from other years? It might just be the response to the Feb. 14, 2018, Parkland school shooting.

A data analysis from TargetSmart published July 19, 2018, found that voter registration among people ages 18 to 29 has had a pretty substantial spike since the Parkland shooting.

The group looked at the voter registration data of 39 states (some states don't make this data accessible to the public), comparing new registrations before and after Parkland. Across the country, the share of new would-be first-time voters went up 2.16%. But what's really interesting is what's changing on a state-by-state basis — especially in states with senate races coming up this November.

Arizona experienced an 8.2% increase, Florida 8%, Virginia 10.5%, Indiana 9.9%, and New York 10.7%. Pennsylvania saw a 16% jump in youth registrants (in the period before Parkland, 18- to 29-year-olds made up just 45.2% of new voters, compared with 61.4% after).

"We can't possibly know for sure if Parkland caused the increase, but the circumstantial evidence would suggest it played a significant role," writes TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier in an email.

Majory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky speaks at a rally in February 2018. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Registering is an important first step, but it's not the finish.

None of this matters if people don't actually get out and vote in November 2018. Recent polling paints a slightly different picture than TargetSmart's analysis seems to show. For example, in June, a PRRI/Atlantic poll found that only 28% of adults under 30 are "absolutely certain" to vote this fall. Compared with senior citizens, where 74% said they were sure to vote, that's not exactly promising for the younger generation.

And, sure, you, my dear reader, already know this: Voting is important. There are groups out there trying to increase turnout — just 36.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2014 midterms — such as the Michelle Obama-led, nonpartisan When We All Vote campaign.

Lola's a little young, but you've got to appreciate her enthusiasm for the democratic process. Photo by Jim Young/Getty Images.

No matter what your political views are: Get out and vote this November.

Democracy works best when we all participate, and the stakes are too high to just let 36.7% of Americans decide our future, right? If you're not registered to vote, you can hop over to When We All Vote to learn how to do it. If you're already registered to vote — first off, congratulations, that's awesome — you can get even more involved by helping get your friends, family, neighbors, mail carrier, casual acquaintance, and anyone else registered.

The Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives rally shown here was scheduled in response to the school shooting in Parkland. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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