This story is from the 2019 Access FYI: FedEx Young Innovators List. Explore more from this issue
Political Candidates are changing the game in 2019

Young Policymakers Changing the Political Landscape

Millennials are poised to change the face of politics through innovations that reach across the aisle.

Political Candidates are changing the game in 2019

Young Innovators are running for office. According to the Millennial Action Project (MAP), a nonpartisan organization that brings together young policymakers, more than 800 millennials ran for state legislative seats in 2018, and 275 of them won. Twenty-six millennials won seats in the House of Representatives — nearly quintupling the number of millennial representatives seated in the previous Congress. And young people are not only running; they’re voting: In 2018, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest group of Americans eligible to vote, and they voted in record numbers in the midterms, with 31 percent of voters aged 18–29 casting ballots. That’s 10 percent more than in 2014.


Percentage of voters aged 18—29 casting ballots in the 2018 midterm elections — 10% more than in 2014

Young candidates and voters alike tend to be less partisan than their elders, says Mark Gearan, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, who told the news site Axios that “this is a generation less wedded to ideology and more open to creative ways to fix the problems that affect their daily lives, from health care to college tuition to finding good jobs.”

MAP seized the opportunity to build on that creativity, launching after the 2013 government shutdown to encourage political cooperation across parties, bust gridlock and spur innovative bipartisan legislation and policy solutions. Today, MAP has more than 800 members who hold offices in Congress and state legislatures.

Members of MAP’s Congressional Future Caucus — the first-ever bipartisan caucus for young members of Congress — have collaborated across the aisle on legislation that includes a bill to help returning service members transition to civilian jobs and a bill repealing restrictions that prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence as a public health issue. On the state level, MAP’s State Future Caucus Network members have come together to share reproducible, tech-savvy ideas such as SafeUT, a smartphone app that people in Utah can use to contact licensed mental health clinicians in times of crisis. 

Steven Olikara, MAP’s founder and president, was optimistic in a 2018 panel discussion at the University of Chicago: “What our generation will do, I think, is try and reinvent government for the 21st century. We’re seeing these young lawmakers seek to reframe issues not in terms of left versus right but instead in terms of the future versus the past.”

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