Bernie Sanders’ Supporters Make Last-Minute Effort to Register Young Voters in Philly

Along with former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, a group of Sanders backers hit Penn's campus this afternoon. Their busy itinerary concludes tonight at North Bowl with Phish drummer Jon Fishman.

The Pennsylvania Democratic primary won’t take place until April 26th, but today is the last day for voters to register, and get the chance to cast their ballots for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Staff and volunteers for the Sanders campaign took to Penn’s campus this afternoon in an eleventh-hour effort to register young voters — a group with which Sanders’ positions have resonated.

Former Ohio state Senator and spokesperson for the Sanders campaign Nina Turner joined the effort to recruit more young people who are “feeling the Bern.” She even pointed out to me a 15-year-old boy, David, who had come out in support of Sanders, because he feels like the Vermont senator cares about his generation, Turner said.

“He could have been doing anything, but he’s out here helping, and to me, that shows the power of the movement, this political revolution that Senator Sanders is trying to create,” Turner said. She spoke of Sanders’ willingness to openly fight for an end to systematic racism and for the issues that are important to African-Americans, minorities, and students. 

She expressed the need to “invest in public colleges and universities so that young people don’t walk across the stage with debt in one hand and a degree in the other.” The U.S. spends about $85 billion each year to imprison people, Turner said, so the government can certainly spend the money on the front end to positively change the outlook of people’s lives, she reasoned.

Despite Sanders’ success with millennial voters in primaries and caucuses thus far, not all passersby were thrilled to be asked to register to vote on their walks to class.

“It was more receptive, I feel, last week when I was here,” volunteer Erica Gaudios said. “Today a lot of people are passing us by, they were saying they’re registered, they’re giving us looks.” Gaudios was initially reluctant to speak to a reporter, which is perhaps telling of Sanders supporters’ skepticism of the media and its supposed bias. The Sanders campaign has expressed concern over the amount of media coverage, or lack thereof, that the candidate receives compared to that of the other candidates in both parties. Some media outlets have taken to calling it the “Bernie Blackout.”

“When we were at Temple everyone seemed to be on board, was very supportive, was being nice to us and I’m hearing people at Drexel are having very good reception with students,” Gaudios said. “It’s just that Penn seems to be very … not as happy about it.”

Polls show Sanders trailing Clinton by a significant margin in next month’s primary, and the former Secretary of State has an overall delegate lead as well.

Organizers of today’s event were not discouraged, though. Sara Blazevic campaigns around climate issues, which has led her to support Sanders. She spoke of registering two unlikely Sanders backers — an evangelical Christian woman from the suburbs and an older man who works at Lowe’s and has seen his salary continue to plummet. However, registering Penn students was the day’s objective.

“I think people are generally really excited, especially freshmen,” Blazevic said. “First-time voters are really, I think, feeling the Bern and excited to get to vote for a candidate that’s speaking directly to issues that affect students tremendously like tuition, and student debt, and minimum wage,” Blazevic said.

Gaudios added that other locations throughout Philly were open for registering voters. Events were scheduled at Temple and in South Philly earlier today. A “Push to the Registration Deadline” event is scheduled for 9 p.m. tonight at North Bowl in Northern Liberties and will feature Jon Fishman, the drummer for Phish.

Follow @BrettMKlein on Twitter.