Hundreds turn out for first ever Youth Organizing Summit

In April, we brought out literally *hundreds* of young organizers from all ends of the country to Washington D.C. for the first ever Youth Organizing Summit. It. Was. Huge. Together, we debriefed 2016 and made plans for building progressive power in 2017 & 2018.

Our friends at Advocates for Youth, CJRC, FCCP, NAKASEC, NextGen Climate, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Roosevelt Institute, URGE, Vote Mob, Youth Engagement Fund, and Young People For helped us plan the Summit and convene a force of driven, young people ready to take on this nation.

Participants attended workshops on electoral organizing, leadership development, tech tools, running women for office, tools for resistance, issue organizing, reproductive rights, immigrant justice, and the list goes on. Our keynote speaker, Amber J. Phillips, began the summit by empowering attendees to keep fighting for our people and building the movement.

“We will only win when we remember that those who have been pushed to the margins are brought back to the center and the front” – Amber J. Phillips

Amber J. Phillips

“It was so nice to have a cross-movement summit where I could hear from and learn from folks who are dedicating their time to movements which differ from but are absolutely intersectional to mine.” – Youth Organizing Summit Attendee

The Youth Organizing Summit by the numbers:

632 young, grassroots organizers

109 allied organizations

56% young people of color

35% LGBTQ identified

40 states

26 skills building & issue workshops

12 unconference sessions

11 core partners

1.5 days of power building

1 incredible summit!

The Summit wrapped up with a fiery keynote by Representative Pramila Jayapal where she told attendees, “If you provide the space for leadership to emerge, young people will lead.” And that is exactly what we intend on doing. Since the Summit’s conclusion, we have been connecting with organizations in attendance to build this movement and lead the nation while young people at the forefront. We, at the Alliance for Youth Action, are rallying this young, vibrant, and progressive energy to push for voting rights, strengthen our democracy, create a better economy, and fight injustice in our communities. This is our movement–join us today.

Alliance AVR Fact-Sheet Covered in HuffPost

One State Shows Just How Easy It Is To Get More Americans To Vote

It’s called automatic voter registration, and it won’t destroy democracy.

By Sam Levine

In early 2016, Oregon was the first state to implement a system in which eligible residents are automatically registered to vote when they have any significant interaction with the motor vehicles department. People have to opt out if they don’t want to register.

Following the change, Oregon saw some major gains in underrepresented communities, according to the Alliance for Youth Action’s report. Turnout among voters ages 18 to 29 increased by 20 percentage points, from 37 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2016. Registration among voters of color increased by 26 points, from 53 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016.

The Alliance for Youth Action is an advocacy group that supports automatic voter registration generally and Oregon’s law specifically.

The specific increases in turnout among youth and registration among people of color in Oregon were the biggest among the 40 states that make their data publicly available, the report says. The increases in youth registration outpaced Oregon’s population growth in that demographic.

Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, noted that the campaign to pass Oregon’s law in 2015 was led by young organizers and said even her group was surprised by the size of the increases in turnout and registration.

“Access to the ballot matters. As a country we should be taking a hard look at ourselves to see what are we doing to make sure that our people are able to vote, that they’re able to participate in our democracy,” Audelo told HuffPost. “We absolutely are fighting back hard against efforts to restrict access to the ballot, but oh my gosh, look what happens when we make it easier for people to participate.”

survey by the Black Youth Project found that in late 2012, the most-common reason young Americans gave for not voting was that they were not registered. Nationally, just 45 percent of eligible voters under 29 voted in 2012, compared to 66 percent of eligible voters 30 and older, according to the Alliance for Youth Action report.

“Oregon shows us that AVR [automatic voter registration] can be the great equalizer ― and help build a robust electorate that mirrors this country’s make-up,” said Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause. “The state already had one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and now it’s building an ever stronger voter base. This is definitely the direction in which the country needs to go: amplifying all eligible voices to create a democracy that accounts for all.”

Lawmakers in California, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have also all enacted automatic voter registration. Colorado and Connecticut did it administratively. And Alaska voters approved a slightly different version through a ballot measure this past November.

Despite signs of success in Oregon soon after the election, Republican governors in a number of states have blocked attempts to pass automatic voter registration. They often cite concerns about voter fraud, although several studies and investigations have shown it is not a widespread problem in the United States. Over the last two years, automatic voter registration bills have been introduced in nearly 30 states.

FACT SHEET: Automatic Voter Registration Transforms Oregon Youth Registration & Turnout Rates

By Henry Kraemer |  April 21, 2017

After a half-decade of leadership and advocacy from the Bus Project (an affiliate of the Alliance for Youth Action) alongside a coalition of advocates, Oregon passed automatic voter registration in 2015. It became operational in 2016, automatically registering eligible citizens to vote and update their registration addresses through Department of Motor Vehicle records.

Since implementation of automatic voter registration, Oregon has seen tremendous growth in youth voter turnout – 20 percentage points higher in 2016 than 2012. Simultaneously, the state has also seen dramatic increases in registration rates in communities of color – rising by 26 percentage points between December 2015 to January 2017. Oregon led the nation in registration and turnout growth for both demographic groups in 2016 (among the over 40 states with data publicly available as of April 2017).

Based on this success, the Alliance for Youth Action has launched the Democracy Done Right campaign to empower other youth led organizations to win automatic voter registration reforms in states around the country – with the goal of replicating Oregon’s extraordinary youth turnout success in every state, along with increasing options for voting method, and ending disenfranchisement based on legal record. The Alliance has previously assisted Alaska in their successful automatic voter registration ballot measure, and is currently supporting active bills in Illinois and Rhode Island.

Voter Registration is a Major Barrier to Youth Turnout

  • Approximately half of the turnout gap between voters age 18-to-29 and voters age 30+ is due to registration.
    • In the 2012 general election, 45% of young voters who were eligible to vote nationwide cast ballots versus a 66% eligible turnout rate of voters over age-30, a difference of 21 percentage points. The turnout gap in those who were registered to vote between older and younger voters in 2012 was just 11 percentage points – 78% for youth and 89% for older voters.
    • In 2012, “not being registered” was the most common reason cited by 18-29-year-old non-voters for why they did not vote. In all, 55 percent of black youth, 45 percent of Latino youth, and 61 percent of white youth said this was the reason they did not cast ballots in the 2012 election.
  • According to a July 2012 CIRCLE poll of young voters, only 13% of young voters held accurate understandings about their state’s voter registration deadline – meaning a shocking 87% did not know their state’s deadline or were misinformed.
  • Americans 18-to-29 change addresses at nearly 2.5 times the annual rate of Americans 30-and-over.   Since voters must re-register to vote every time they move, this means young people are more likely to lose their registered voter status — often without even realizing it.

After Implementing Automatic Voter Registration, Oregon Saw Huge  Spikes in Youth Turnout and Registration Rates for People of Color

  • Nearly half a million Oregonians directly benefited from automatic voter registration in its first year (15% of Oregon’s voting age population).
    • 225,796 voters registered for the general election through the program.
    • 264,551 voters received address updates through the automatic voter registration system, ensuring Oregon’s all-mail ballots reached them at their current residences.
  • Over 40% of automatic voter registrants were under-30, despite being only 20% of the overall adult population. Nearly 100,000 new automatic registrants were young (age distribution of automatic address updates were not available).
    • Between the 2012 and 2016 general elections, the number of registered Oregon voters age 18-to-29 increased by over 66,000. During the same period, the overall population of that cohort grew by fewer than 20,000 people.
    • In the first general election after the adoption of automatic voter registration, Oregon achieved 57% voter turnout for all adults-under-30 – 20 percentage points higher than the 37% rate for Oregon youth in 2012.
      • The 2016 and 2012 electoral environments were extraordinarily similar – limited presence of active presidential campaigns in the state,  nor any competitive gubernatorial or senatorial statewide elections.
    • Additionally, Oregon saw the largest increase in registration rates among communities of color in the nation in 2016.
      • According to exploratory analysis done by Blue Labs, in December 2015, Oregon’s registration rate for people of color was 53%, ranking 31st in the US.
      • By January 2017, that registration rate climbed to 79%, the second highest in the nation. Over half of eligible but unregistered people of color were added to the rolls after the implementation of automatic voter registration in Oregon – the most significant improvement of any state in the union.

How Automatic Voter Registration Works in Oregon

  • As of 2016, Oregon automatically registers voters exclusively through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), whose driver license, learners permit, and identification card applications require all information necessary to determine eligibility to vote.
  • When an Oregonian provides their name, address, birth date, and verification of citizenship (most commonly United States birth certificates and United States passports) to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency securely forwards the information to the Elections Division of the Secretary of State.
  • Applicants who provide other proofs of residence are not passed through to the Secretary of State, nor are individuals with protected records due to safety risks.
  • All DMV address updates are also sent to the Department of Elections, who verifies the new information against the current records in the state voter file, and updates the voter address if it appears more up-to-date than the voter registration record.
  • Newly registered and updated voters get a postcard saying 1) they have been registered to vote through automatic voter registration, 2) they can opt-out by signing and mailing back the postcard, and 3) to vote in the state’s closed partisan primary, they need to register with a political party by returning the postcard.
  • New automatic registrants are allowed 21 days to return the postcard. Voters who do not return the card are added to the voter registration list as nonaffiliated voters.

Oregon Automatic Voter Registration Success Fact Sheet (includes citations)

Announcing Youth Organizing Summit Keynotes

The Youth Organizing Summit is just a few days away, and it is gonna be lit. What was originally an just an awesome idea has now turned into an incredible space with 570 attendees representing 68 organizations and 39 states. Over 50% of attendees are people of color and experts agree that 100% are sooooo dope.

With this colossally cool crew assembled, we’re thrilled to announce our two keynote speakers who promise to pump them up: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and the incredible Amber J. Phillips of Black Joy Mixtape and Advocates for Youth!

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal represents Washington’s 7th District, which encompasses most of Seattle, and surrounding areas.

Her focus is on ensuring income equality; access to education, from early learning to higher education, including debt-free college; expanding Social Security and Medicare; protecting our environment for our next generation; and ensuring immigrant, civil and human rights for all.

The first Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives, Jayapal has spent the last twenty years working internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for women’s, immigrant, civil, and human rights.

She came to the United States by herself at the age of 16 to attend college at Georgetown University and later received her MBA from Northwestern University. She has worked in a number of industries in both the public and private sector.

Amber J. Phillips is a social justice organizer, writer, podcaster, and digital strategist working to advance the rights of all Black people and people of color in general. Amber’s writings on Black women at the intersections of politics, pop culture, and the media have been published on Huffington Post, For Harriet, and Rewire. Combining her electoral organizing background with social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram as a launching pad to shift culture and conversations, Amber has been featured as a leading voice on Black feminism on The Breakfast Club, ESSENCE, the Young, Black and Fabulous, and as a regular contributing panelist on Roland Martin’s NewsOne Now.

In addition to being the Senior Manager of Youth Leadership and Mobilization at Advocates for Youth, Amber is the Co-Director/Founder of the digital marketing firm BLACK that uses culture to elevate Black progressive power in politics and media. Amber also co-hosts and produces the Black Joy Mixtape, a weekly podcast that breaks down the trending stories in news, politics, and pop culture while centering Black women and our communities. Overall, Amber is living her best life being petty, Black, and feminist AF as an Ohioan living currently living in Washington, D.C.

Whew! So much fire. Can’t wait to watch these women get next level up on the main stage.

The Alliance for Youth Action is Here.

Bigger, bolder and more ready to pump up the voices of young people than ever.

We have spent the better part of a decade making moves behind the scenes.

Pushing the envelope on voting rights. Changing the balance of power in our communities. Transforming the face of leadership across our states. A select few knew of us, and called us “the Bus Federation” after the buses we’d drive around to organize people. (Get it?)

Many many more people knew the names, and celebrated the work, of the local organizations that made up our federation. We have proudly worked backstage, amplifying and supporting and investing in local works in targeted corners of the country.

But today America faces unprecedented challenges.

We need to do unprecedented work – bigger, broader, more ambitious. We need to shine a beacon, so any group of young people organizing for progressive change anywhere in the country knows that somebody has their back with resources and support.

That somebody is the Alliance for Youth Action. That’s us.



We’ve been preparing for this a long time. Our network has brought automatic voter registration to America. We’ve defeated huge corporations to fight climate change after being outspent 11-to-1. We’ve helped win the country’s first $15 minimum wage. We helped ensure protections for LGBTQ people in some of the nation’s most conservative places. We have wrung police accountability measures from entrenched city governments. We founded National Voter Registration Day and the American Voter Guide. We have helped over 350,000 young people register to vote.

With this experience, we are ready to take it fully national.

The fundamentals of our mission haven’t changed – we’re still building a locally led movement of young people, by young people, for all people. We believe our historically huge and diverse Millennial generation holds the power to transform American democracy. We’re now going to do more to release that potential.

In 2017-18, our network will grow affiliates and youth organizing partnerships in 25 states, to mobilize masses of young people in every competitive statewide election. We will create a national tide for automatic voter registration, vote-your-way reforms, and voting rights for the formerly incarcerated with our Democracy Done Right campaign. We will shift the national economic conversation toward one where working people have power and profit in their jobs, housing, and educations through our Broke AF campaign. We will train hundreds of leaders, and register hundreds of thousands of voters.

An effort this big needs a new name, and a new identity. It needs to be big, and loud – so local youth organizing can finally get the attention it deserves (and so local youth organizers know where to turn for help).

Thus, the Alliance for Youth Action is born. We can’t wait to grow with you.


Check out the rest of our spiffy new website. Find out about our affiliates & partners. And if you’re feeling really inspired, throw us a few bucks to fund the huge work ahead of us.


Our New Partnership Structure

by Sarah Audelo, Executive Director

Across the country, there’s an explosion of young folks trying to figure out how to engage their communities. Our freed-up staff capacity will allow us to meet this moment and the clear wave of interest and enthusiasm for civic engagement. A new partnership model, in addition to our traditional Affiliate structure, gives us the flexibility we need in this moment to work with a variety of kinds of folks — all-volunteer operations working in communities or on-campus, youth projects of intergenerational organizations, or new efforts that aim to become ongoing youth-focused organizations.

Map of affiliates and partners

While we expect to maintain flexibility, the basic outlines of the partnership model are clear: we provide basic technical assistance and capacity building, support fundraising, connect these organizations into larger networks of organizing and peer support around the country, and serve as a champion and validator for their work.

We have long been committed to steady, sustainable growth. For several years, we’ve been asked by funders and partners when we would be able to support more organizations. This moment called for a rethinking of our approach and a willingness to work with more efforts, even ones that are potentially short-lived.

Given the explosion of interest on the ground, we concluded that we could either play it safe, stand back, waiting and watching to see which groups succeed and which fail. Or we could seize this moment, support these new efforts, push our own model, and potentially drive a major wave of success.

Interested in joining the network or suggesting we get in-touch with some folks you know? Check out our Local Organizing page for details.

The Nation covers Alliance voting rights advocacy

The Nation’s Ari Berman covers two Alliance affiliates’ work protecting and expanding the right to vote, from the Oregon Bus Project’s successful half-decade campaign to bring automatic voter registration to the United States, to MOVE San Antonio’s battle to get voters on the rolls in Texas.

Check out the whole article at The Nation.