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Young voters in California lead decisive victory against Prop 23


Young voters in California lead decisive victory against Prop 23


Young voters celebrated a decisive victory against Big Oil by defeating a deceptive ballot measure, Prop 23. The initiative, funded with millions of dollars from oil corporations, sought to wreck California's clean energy economy and effectively repeal the state’s landmark clean air and clean energy laws.

The California Student Sustainability Coalition's Power Vote Campaign united thousands of young Californians behind a creative grassroots campaign that exposed Big Oil's dirty ploy, and mobilized thousands of voters to defeat it. The campaign partnered with student networks across the state to turn out the youth vote, worked with a community coalition to launch the Clean Energy Tour, a music tour merging arts and activism, and directly confronted oil interests bank-rolling the initiative, like the Koch Brothers.

Joel Francis, a student leader at Cal State, Los Angeles, brought national attention to this issue when he challenged oilman Charles Koch to a public debate on his bank-rolling of Proposition 23. His debate challenge drew national coverage from New York Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Huffington Post:

Our efforts, along with dozens of coalition partners, helped to expose the truth behind Proposition 23: that it was an oil company-funded initiative meant to stop California from moving forward at the expense of our health, our national security, and our economy.

Power Vote California's “No on 23” campaign, in partnership with CALPIRG and Environment California, helped to organize on over 50 campuses and collected over 160,000 pledges from young people to vote “No” on Proposition 23.

In the final days, campuses across the state used brass-tacks organizing tactics and an online new media strategy to get out the youth vote. Below are just a few examples of the incredible student leadership working to get out the vote in the closing hours of the campaign.

  • Power Vote at CSU Chico paraded students to the polls for five hours yesterday at the busiest intersection on campus. On Monday night, leaders called 600 students who pledged to vote No on Prop 23 and 26 in the past month. Throughout the Election Day, groups of students covered in bright green announced the importance of the youth vote and led students from class to the polls. With a live band attracting the attention of thousands of students, CSU Chico students mobilized their peers to the polls to stop the dirty energy propositions.
  • Student and community leaders mobilized people to vote as part of the Clean Energy Tour -- a 6-city hip hop concert tour focused on getting out the vote. The Clean Energy Tour helped unite a broad coalition of groups including the California Student Sustainability Coalition, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Greenlining Institute. The downtown Sacramento stop brought students and community leaders together to educate and activate around prop 23 and 26 – both funded by millions of dollars from out-of-state oil companies.
  • City College of San Francisco Green Corps held a huge phone bank to contact more than 1000 students in the final hours before Election Day -- all while streaming the World Series LIVE. The students had to take a small break as the San Francisco Giants clenched the World Series title for the first time in history. The rap was slightly modified to include the line, “We know with your help, we can stop Texas again tomorrow by stopping the dirty energy proposition."

Courtney Hight, the Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition, had this to say about the outcome in California:

In an election that's been characterized by record corporate spending, capitulation to moderation, and a lack of leadership behind clean energy, the victory against Proposition 23 demonstrates that the youth vote is capable of delivering a victory for clean energy when clear choices are on the table. Clean energy victories will continue to motivate young voters and we’ll build off of this decisive victory to create more of them.

The battle against Proposition 23 illuminated that across the country Big Oil and special interests are corrupting our democratic process. These dirty energy industries will continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars to try and stop our progress. Our generation understands what is at stake -- our health, our national security, and our economy -- and they know that clean energy will help rebuild and reinvigorate our country.

Gabriel Elsner is currently the Campaign Director for the California Student Sustainability Coalition's Power Vote Campaign to mobilize the youth vote and stop the dirty energy proposition, Prop 23. He previously served as Global Warming Solutions coordinator for the Student PIRGs and is a former 1Sky Policy Fellow.
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