The Rising American Electorate

Unmarried women, people of color, and millennials are poised to cast a majority of votes in the 2016 election.

The Voter Participation Center was one of the first organizations to call attention to what we call the Rising American Electorate: unmarried women, people of color, and millennials.

Despite making up a majority of the voting-eligible population, the Rising American Electorate is underrepresented at the polls; in 2014, over 75 million RAE members didn’t vote. Think of the difference those 75 million missing Americans might have made.

Learn more about the Rising American Electorate:

Growing & Diverse

The demographic groups that make up the Rising American Electorate are some of the fastest-growing demographics in the country… by the 2016 election, it’s projected that over 133 million Americans will be members of the Rising American Electorate.


Unmarried women and Latinos are some of the main drivers behind the explosive growth of the Rising American Electorate; both groups have grown by a staggering 12 million between 2000 and 2014.

The growth of unmarried women is particularly important to us, because we’ve found that marital status is one of the most significant factors for women’s political participation. Read more about unmarried women and their overall role in the Rising American Electorate.

The RAE is also an incredibly diverse population group:

Despite their diversity, however, our research has found that the Rising American Electorate is united by a set of common concerns and tendencies.

The RAE, for example, tends to move more often than their non-RAE counterparts, making it more difficult for them to remain registered to vote. They’re also more likely to be struggling economically than non-RAE members—which is why, in their political lives, they tend to be concerned about economic policies that help working families, gender equity in the workplace and in society.

For more of our research about the Rising American Electorate, check out the Voter Participation Data Center.


Too many voting-eligible members of the Rising American Electorate aren’t registered to vote.

In 2014, 42% of voting-eligible members of the RAE—over 52 million people—weren’t registered. In presidential election years, for every one voter in the RAE who was registered and didn’t vote, there were four who were unregistered and therefore couldn’t vote.


In order to address this massive registration gap, our voter registration programs are constantly active—using mail, online advertising, and every other means at our disposal to help the Rising American Electorate register to vote.


The RAE isn’t getting the information they need about why—or how—to vote. When our researchers have asked RAE members who didn’t vote why they didn’t vote, the #1 reason they gave was that they don’t have enough information about the candidates or about the policy debates on the issues they care about.

This is tragic. We know that the policies being made at city hall, the statehouse, and the halls of Congress affect the everyday lives of the Rising American Electorate in countless ways—but the information about how those policies affect the RAE isn’t getting to them.

There’s also a lack of information about voting itself—which is all the more troubling because the ways Americans register and vote have changed dramatically (by mail, online, and early voting in-person, for example), and new voter requirements have been imposed in many states.

That’s why we place such a heavy emphasis on advocacy and education programs that help educate RAE voters about the how of voting (how to register, what voters need to bring, etc.) as well as the why of voting: the issues that affect the Rising American Electorate as they work, live, and raise their families.

Under Attack

In far too many states, public policies are making it harder—or impossible—for the RAE to vote.

Ever-more-stringent voter ID laws, constantly-changing rules about voter registration requirements, shifting precinct boundaries, cutbacks in early voting and vote-by-mail, legalized voter intimidation, inequitable distribution of voting machines leading to long lines on Election Day—these are just some of the ways that public officials in some states are making it harder for members of the RAE to exercise their right to vote.

The Brennan Center for Justice has an excellent overview of voting restrictions from state to state — and among their most chilling conclusions is that the states that are passing new restrictions on voting also tend to be the ones with the greatest turnout and growth among African-Americans and Latinos.

And thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the federal government’s ability to protect voting rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been severely restricted.

We’re proud to join many other organizations calling for Congress to #RestoreTheVRA. But in the meantime, our registration and turnout campaigns also educate voters about added legal requirements for voting, so that they aren’t surprised when they get to the voting booth.