The Rising American Electorate

Unmarried women, people of color, and millennials could cast a majority of votes in every election — but only if they vote.

The Rising American Electorate—people of color, young people of all races and unmarried women of all races—are critical voices in our democracy, in our communities, and in our economy.

The Voter Participation Center was one of the first organizations to call attention to the Rising American Electorate, or RAE. Using cutting-edge technology, innovative programs, and groundbreaking research, VPC works tirelessly to help the RAE reach their full potential and create a more representative democracy.

In 2018, there were nearly 142 million eligible voters in the RAE—which is 62 percent of the voting-eligible population in the United States. At the same time, the RAE was barely half of the total electorate with 53 percent. While the RAE became a majority of the electorate in 2016 for the first time in history, there is still more work to be done in 2020 and beyond to have an electorate that reflects the larger population–in midterms and general elections.

With so much at stake, the Voter Participation Center is running its largest program ever in 2020 to register and mobilize the Rising American Electorate.

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.

When the Voter Participation Center was founded in 2003, the Rising American Electorate was only 44.6 percent of the voting-eligible population. In 2018, the RAE grew to become 62 percent of the VEP.

Unmarried women, young people, and Latinos are some of the main drivers behind the explosive growth of the RAE in recent decades. From 2014 to 2018, the national growth rate for the RAE was 22.3 percent, adding 23.8 million new RAE voters to the electorate.

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

In 2018, there were nearly 142 million members of the Rising American Electorate. Unmarried women and young people were far and away the largest segments, but there is a lot of overlap between them:

 

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.

 

Underregistered

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

In 2016, 35 percent of voting-eligible members of the RAE — more than 46 million people — weren’t registered. Latinos and young people are the most likely members of the RAE to be unregistered.

In 2016, one in three members of the RAE were not registered, compared to just one in five unregistered of the non-RAE:

 

In the 2018 midterms, the RAE is projected to be just over a majority of the electorate. The midterm RAE gap, which is the difference between the VEP and electorate share, has not widened as dramatically as it has for presidential elections.

In order to address this massive registration gap among the Rising American Electorate, our voter registration programs are constantly active—using mail, digital advertising, and other state-of-the-art tools at our disposal to help the RAE register to vote.

 

Underinformed

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 because of 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.

 

Voting Rights Updates

Get the latest updates on the ongoing struggle to defend voting rights and make it easier to vote.