Progressive billionaire Tom Steyer is investing $3.5 million to get Florida's young voters to the polls


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You’ve seen the advertisements: Sitting in a neutral-colored room, Tom Steyer calmly addresses the many reasons (and counting) to impeach President Donald Trump.

Coming from a billionaire with a history of making heavy political investments, at best this looks like a murky light at the end of the tunnel. But Steyer seems to be putting his money where his mass emails are: For his latest project, the 60-year-old former hedge fund executive from San Francisco – whom some might call the antithesis of mega-rich conservative donors Charles and David Koch, commonly known as the Koch brothers – has begun investing a whopping $30 million into what he’s called the largest youth organizing program in U.S. history leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.

For once, the money isn’t just leaving a breadcrumb trail to the polls for baby boomers or Generation X voters. Instead, he’s tapping millennials – a chunk of the electorate that now matches Boomers in size and then some, but historically has underwhelmed when it comes to trekking out to the polls. The Sunshine State is a main focus of Steyer's voter turnout project.

“People tend to think it’s too time-consuming, it’s too expensive, so they don’t do it,” Steyer told the Tampa Bay Times. “From our standpoint, this is a critical part of having the kind of fair democracy that we want and we think the country would be much better off.”

“It’s not that [millennials] are uninformed, it’s not that they are lazy. It’s that they don’t necessarily believe the system serves them.”

The broad outline of the plan was released in January, but details for the course of action in Florida were released last week. NextGen America, as the project has been dubbed, will spend at least $3.5 million in the state and plans to double the current 50 staffers to cover around 40 college campuses, including 10 community colleges and four historically black colleges. The project seeks to rally young voters around issues they’re personally invested in, like immigration, healthcare and criminal justice reform.

On top of that, NextGen America will target 1.5 million young voters online and via old-fashioned snail mail, and roughly 65,000 doors will be knocked on multiple times in an effort to shift sporadic voters into reliable ones – and, presumably, Democrat-leaning ones.

Steyer’s project is maintaining a key focus on several politicians and congressional seats in Florida, particularly the re-election of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat; the re-election of first-term U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park; and flipping three South Florida congressional seats that are currently held by Republicans.

Other states NextGen America will focus on are Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire and Arizona.

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