These Idaho Gen Z-ers push back against the ‘avocado toast-loving tech baby’ trope. They’re voting in greater numbers.
With the midterm elections less than a month away, there’s an energized push to get the vote out, and an equally energized effort to register new voters – and in particular, young voters.
The Idaho nonprofit Babe Vote has a rather cheeky way of pushing back against the stereotypes of unengaged young men and women.
In fact on their website, they write, “They call us millennials, Generation Z, Dreamers, kids, tech babies. They think young people don't care that we're apathetic. Netflix bingeing, espresso drinkers who make craft beer, they think we don't care about policy or government. We're just Instagram consumers who like avocado toast.”
“Yes, we do love avocado toast and yes, I love scrolling on Instagram, we also are more than that,” said 17-year-old Amaia Clayton of Babe Vote. “And we are really passionate about fighting for our futures and really everyone's futures.”
Clayton joined activist Sam Sandmire to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk more about Babe Vote and the looming deadline for Idahoans to pre-register online.
“Babe Vote is a local organization in Idaho that's run majority by high school students, that aims to register voters and educate and engage voters.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are in the throes of election season and we're now well less than a month until Election Day. And an increasing number of Idaho voters are deciding to vote early, either by mailing in an absentee ballot or they'll be participating in early in-person voting, which begins soon. We're going to spend some time talking about voter engagement in Idaho now. So, let's bring in Sam Sandmire. Many of us know her as gymnastics coach extraordinaire of Boise State. Her passion for conservation runs deep through her service as president of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. Sam, good morning to you.
SAM SANDMIRE: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me.
PRENTICE: And we have another guest, Amaia Clayton is here. Amaia, you're a student?
AMAIA CLAYTON: Yes, I'm a high school senior at Renaissance High School.
PRENTICE: Renaissance High School. Before I get any further, my go to question is: What is the dream for you beyond high school?
CLAYTON: My big dream is Congress. I want to run for office.
PRENTICE: Wow…have we ever come to the right place. Amaia, we're here to talk about something called Babe Vote, something many of us have heard a little bit about. But I'm going to ask you to clue us in. What is Babe Vote?
CLAYTON: So Babe Vote is a local organization in Idaho that's run majority by high school students, that aims to register voters and educate and engage voters. In Idaho, mainly, we're focused on young voters, but also voters of all ages.
PRENTICE: What works? How do you connect? How do you make that happen?
CLAYTON: Social media is a big method of connection. We use our Instagram account in order to reach out to lots of young people and get people to volunteer. And we also are present at all sorts of events around the valley and honestly around the state too. We are often at protests and rallies or community events just trying to make it that we can be accessible and so that people can get registered to vote in as many places as possible.
SANDMIRE: These young people are super smart. They know the issues that are important to them. They want to be involved. Many of our volunteers at Babe Vote are too young to vote themselves, but they are out there registering voters and all they really need is support. They need places to meet and organize. They need rides sometimes because some are too young to drive.
PRENTICE: Indulge me here for a moment. I have to read something from the Babe Vote Facebook page because I think this is worth sharing. And so quoting here, “They call us millennials, Generation Z, Dreamers, kids, tech babies. They think young people don't care that we're apathetic. Netflix bingeing, espresso drinkers who make craft beer, they think we don't care about policy or government. We're just Instagram consumers who like avocado toast.” Amaia, you're absolutely right. I've heard those tropes way too often. You're here to set the record straight.
CLAYTON: Mm hmm. Yeah, I definitely think that sometimes our generation gets a bad rap. But I am really proud of my generation, and I'm really proud to be a part of the generation that I am. I'm constantly inspired by those who are around me and the people who are all fighting for our world and for our future. And so I think while, yes, we do love avocado toast and yes, I love scrolling on Instagram, we also are more than that and we are really passionate about fighting for our futures and really everyone's futures.
PRENTICE: Give me some issues. But what is resonating with your peers?
CLAYTON: Yeah, well, voting is obviously a big one as we were talking about. Big vote right here. Voting is kind of the crux of all of them and all the different things that people are involved in. Voting often comes up because it's the one thing that everyone has the opportunity to do and everyone has the opportunity to make change with. But I also know that climate and environment are really big among my peers. I personally am the co-director of March for Our Lives Idaho, and I work on gun safety and advocating for gun safety both in the community and the Idaho legislature. Quality education, public education. I've worked with Reclaim Idaho. There's a number of different issues that our generation is really passionate about.
PRENTICE: So read the political temperature in Idaho this year. I can certainly appreciate why someone would be engaged in a national election. What's the engagement level in a state election?
CLAYTON: Well, it's definitely lower in state elections, but state elections are just as important as national, if not more important, because local is where change matters and local elections are where we can really make an impact. And so I've been working on campaigns with some of my peers all throughout the summer. We've been door knocking and engaging with candidates, and these are all just super important. Ways to engage with voters and really get out the vote because local elections really matter.
PRENTICE: Can I assume that Babe Vote is not party specific?
CLAYTON: My friend Holly - she was a senior last year in high school - and I know that her political beliefs are very different from mine, but I work really hard to make sure that everyone has the right to vote and everybody knows how to vote, regardless of who they're going to vote for. So I made sure to get her registered and get her information on where her polling place was and how to vote. And I was so excited to hear that she had voted, even though she told me that she had probably voted for some people differently than I would have. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that she voted because everyone deserves a say.
PRENTICE: Sam Sandmire, we have so many dates that are important on the election calendar and we're coming up to one pretty quickly by the end of this week. Can you remind us of registration and some deadlines, etc.?
SANDMIRE: Yes. This Friday, October 14th, is the deadline to pre-register to vote, and that means you can register online at vote. Idaho dot gov….not dot org…not dot dot com… it’s dot gov. And there are other deadlines we do in Idaho have the ability to register at the polls. So if you do miss Friday's deadline to register and you're not registered yet, you can show up at the polls. Early voting starts October 24th. You can also register to vote on Election Day if you miss the deadline. But you do need to bring a state issued ID and proof of residence so you don't have to have a license, a driver's license, but you have to bring some mail that shows that you live where you live. And if all else fails, you can sign an affidavit that says you are who you are. And they should accept that to.
PRENTICE: Amaia, pardon me and tell me if it's none of my business. But can I ask how old you are?
CLAYTON: I'm 17.
PRENTICE: So you are not voting yet?
CLAYTON: No, I will not be voting until next year.
PRENTICE: But it's my understanding that you were a poll worker last election season.
CLAYTON: I've actually been a poll worker for the past two elections last November and this past May.
PRENTICE: I don't think a lot of young men and women know that they can be poll workers before they're eligible to vote.
CLAYTON: Yeah, it's an amazing experience and I would highly recommend it. Plus, you get paid, so you might as well. But it is super fun and it's a really cool way to get involved with democracy and learn about the elections process. I know the first time I did it, I was fortunate enough to be stationed at the county elections office because there's a polling place right there. Wow. And I learned so much, so many things that I had no idea about in our elections process. I think the first time I voted was the first time I worked as a poll worker was right around when claims of election fraud and the election being stolen were swirling and security of elections. And so it was really cool to be able to witness the election and see how many different processes are in place to ensure the security of elections. I think a lot of times the average citizen doesn't know about all of the different people that are involved in the elections process and how secure it is and all of the different things that happen. And so being able to witness that was really cool and I would highly recommend it to everyone.
PRENTICE: Sam, what’s so impressive is that Amaia was an eyewitness to the truth.
SANDMIRE: Amaia, being an active participant as a poll worker, gave her amazing experience and clout and they vote, also holds testimony training so young people can get comfortable practicing testimony and they then will feel more comfortable when they testify in front of our legislators. And I witnessed Amaia really schooling our legislators on election security. It was so obvious that Amaia knew more than some of the legislators who were doubting the election security in Idaho. So I loved watching Amaia school those legislators.
CLAYTON: Yeah, like Sam was talking about, I did have such an incredible opportunity to be able to testify in the Idaho legislature and really explain this experience that I had while working. One of the things I got to do that was really unique was because I was stationed at the county elections office. I got to join a staff member of the elections office and we drove to Kuna to pick up ballots out of the ballot drop box exactly 8 p.m. when the polls closed. That was also like a super eye-opening experience because there are a ton of different processes and procedures that go in place with that process that ensure it. Security. So the ballots always have to be in the custody of two people. So that's why I got to go with her. The box that they're transported in is locked and zip tied, so it can't be messed with. You have to do it exactly 8 p.m.. There's a whole load of different policies and procedures to make sure that the process is really secure. And getting to explain that to these legislators who maybe weren't familiar with this process was really cool.
PRENTICE: It seems as if you are plugging in where previous generations did not.
CLAYTON: I think it's really cool to see how empowered and fired up people are becoming about these issues. This year is just as important as 2020 and I'm really hoping that people get out here for the midterms because reproductive rights are on the on the ballot. Gun control issues, school shootings, my life not being taken when I go to school. That's on the ballot climate. I was on the ballot. All these different things are super important and they're all on the ballot this November. And so we really need people to get out there and vote.
PRENTICE: She is Amaia Clayton, to be sure her influence on engagement, not necessarily on who we vote for, but engagement is quite tangible.
CLAYTON: Thank you.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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