By JESS NOCERA and ANDREA CWIEKA
Capital News Service
PHILADELPHIA — Despite their lack of years, millennial Maryland Democratic delegates said they brought a lot to the table at their party’s convention and will play an important role in the November election.
With millennials making up approximately one-quarter of the American population, there has been a focus on the group during this year’s Democratic primary contest. And the youngest members of the Maryland delegation think the party is reaching out to them.
“Elections run because young people make it happen,” said Amna Hashmi, a 22-year-old delegate from Baltimore. While Hashmi is a Hillary Clinton supporter, she said she recognized that Bernie Sanders resonated with many millennials, thanks in part to his focus on racial issues and college tuition.
Sanders was able to energize the voting block and get the 2016 candidates talking about issues important to young people, said delegate Joseph Kitchen, 30, of Fairmount Heights.
Kitchen added that the “vibrant, strong, young demographic in the Democratic Party” helped contribute to Sanders’ unexpected success.
It’s unclear how large a role young voters will play in the general election. Historically, young voters are much less likely to vote than older voters.
According to the Pew Research Center, “in a low-turnout environment, 58 percent of eligible millennials would need to vote in order for their voting clout to match their share of the electorate.”
Some young Democrats expressed their frustration by participating in a silent sit-in in the media tent at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday afternoon, after Clinton received the nomination.
Annapolis resident Keanuu Smith-Brown, 20, a Bernie Sanders supporter and Maryland delegate, said he felt “disrespected” by the DNC, but he did not participate in the sit-in. The delegate said he recognized the need for the party to unite behind Clinton.
Clinton has backed Sanders’ higher education policy by pledging to make “tuition-free college at public colleges for families making less than $125,000 per year,” Smith-Brown said. “That’s a little over 80 percent of people in America.”
Hashmi said that because Sanders was able to incorporate the college plan into Clinton’s agenda and the party platform, it “will help both supporters unite.”
Smith-Brown said the college tuition proposal would help people receive a more quality education, which will “move our country forward.”
Some Maryland millennial delegates who support Clinton said they admired her ability to get things done.
“The worst thing we can do is lead an aggressive campaign with a lot of promise (and) a lot of talk and then not put (it) in action…,” Kitchen said. “And that’s one thing Hillary Clinton has a leg up on: that she can follow through.”
Delegate Chirag Vasavda, a 25-year-old medical student from Baltimore, felt that Clinton has “a better grasp of the health care system.”
Vasavda, an aspiring physician, has followed Clinton’s history of supporting the expansion of health insurance as well as her support for LGBTQ rights.
“As a gay man, her (gay rights) advocacy over the years has been great,” Vasavda said.
Clinton “knows when to make it loud and when to not,” Vasavda said. In the State Department, the secretary quietly advocated for transgender passport rights and saw success, he said.
It is important for transgender people to be able to change their passports to the sex they want. Clinton’s low-key handling of the change kept it from becoming a huge social issue, Vasavda said.
Dylan Goldberg, a 25-year-old delegate from Columbia, also lauded Clinton for her support of Alzheimer’s research.
“As a grandson, I never want another grandson to go what I went through,” said Goldberg, whose grandmother died of the disease.
Both Clinton and Sanders supporters said that as millennials, they are important to their state delegation and to the election.
“As young people, we bring a lot of energy, a lot of new perspective, (and) we pushed the party to be bold in new ways,” Kitchen said.
The five young delegates agreed that they want to continue to be a voice for young Marylanders and bring issues like “Black Lives Matter” and climate change to the forefront.
“I’m so lucky to have gotten this opportunity,” Hashmi said. “If you are a young person that doesn’t vote, you are basically saying that you don’t care.”