In the US, people between the ages of 18 and 39 make up more than a third of eligible voters. However, younger voters have historically had lower turnout rates than any other age group. As a result, they’re often described as ‘disengaged’ or ‘uninterested.’
But 18-year-old Audrey McNeal defies those labels. Not only is she planning to vote in November, but she’s running to be a Delegate for the Democratic Party of Georgia. The senior at Cobb County’s Harrison High School started campaigning for office when she was a freshman.
“I ran for class president and it was actually an election that I ended up losing, but because I have the character of being a strong person and persevering. I came back the next year and I evaluated my shortcomings,” McNeal says. “And I created new innovative ways of how to campaign.”
McNeal says she analyzed her shortcomings by looking at the election results. The winner won in a landslide.
“So I told myself that I didn’t put myself out there as much as I should have,” she says.
So, when she ran for sophomore class president, McNeal changed her approach. She asked her teachers if she could make campaign speeches before or at the end of class.
“I went to all these different homerooms–whether I knew them or not–to promote myself,” she says. “That’s what I had to do. But at that point, they knew who I was and they knew that I cared about the position because no one else was doing those things.”
The effort paid off. She won the election. However, serving as class president is one thing. Running to be a party delegate is another. McNeal says she’s not a stranger to the political process.
“My dad was a delegate on during Obama’s run for president,” she says. “That’s how I knew about the delegate and what they do and how important it is to run to be part of the process to pick the president.”
If she’s elected, Audrey will go to the Democratic convention and cast her vote for the presumptive nominee, Joe Biden. Since her sophomore year, she’s gained more political experience. She was selected to be a senator for Girls Nation, a program run by the American Legion Auxilary. She was a chairwoman at the Model Atlanta Regional Commission’s Youth Council Natural Resources Committee. She also worked as a research intern for Stacey Abram’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018.
McNeal is aware that people her age have a reputation for not showing up to vote. Some campaigns won’t spend resources recruiting people to vote, even if they’re registered, if they don’t have a voting history.
“I think what most people my age need is access to voter registration drives,” she says. “I think it needs to be more incorporated into schools, especially for seniors because that their senior year they are turning 18. And I also think that a lot of young people are involved in politics, but sometimes they don’t know how to be involved.”
Another possible obstacle in getting young people involved in the process this year could be that Biden doesn’t excite young people that much. McNeal says he doesn’t always speak their language.
“According to the New York Times, the Biden campaign has had a hard time transitioning to an all-digital campaign,” McNeal says. “And so I hope to harness that energy to use these different social media platforms to help endorsed Joe Biden the presidential nominee.”
Despite being a Democrat, McNeal says she’s not a fan of partisan polarization. She started a club at Harrison that brings Democrats and Republicans together to discuss national and global issues and come up with bi-partisan solutions.
“Because I’m good at orchestrating things and bringing people together, I think that I can add a lot to the campaign as a delegate,” she says.
She’ll soon find out if she’ll get that chance. Democratic Party electors vote for delegates on Saturday.