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Thousands register to vote at March for Our Lives demonstrations

“People are really understanding the power of the vote and that’s what’s really motivating a lot of them. They’re figuring out the importance and power of civic engagement.”
Image: March For Our Lives
Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, along with students and speakers at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington on March 24, 2018. Shawn Thew / EPA

At many of the March for Our Lives events across the United States on Saturday, speakers reminded the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance that there was an important way they could push for gun reform: register to vote and go to the polls.

According to many of the student speakers at the Washington rally, voting is the only way to pressure politicians to propose legislation that would meet the movement's demands, which include universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“Let’s take this to our local legislators and let’s take this to midterm elections," said David Hogg, one of the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who helped organize the march. "Because without the persistent heat, without the persistence of voters and Americans everywhere getting out to every election, democracy will not flourish.”

HeadCount, a nonpartisan organization that registers young voters at concerts, partnered with the students behind March for Our Lives and sent close to 1,000 volunteers to register marchers at Saturday’s crowd in Washington, which numbered 800,000 people, according to organizers.

HeadCount spokesman Aaron Ghitelman said volunteers, who were dressed in neon yellow or neon green shirts, were coming back with 10 to 20 filled-out voter forms each. And the young people who filled out those forms are from all over the country.

“That’s a really invigorating number,” Ghitelman said of the Washington returns. “I mean, damn that’s awesome.”

HeadCount also sent volunteers to the many other marches that occurred throughout the country, and several other organizations also worked to register students, parents and teachers at the massive demonstrations.

As of Sunday, Ghitelman said they had registered approximately 4,800 people across the country.

Diane Burrows, a vice president of the League of Women Voters in New York, said her group had trained and sent out 45 volunteers into the city’s march on Saturday. Each carried a clipboard and 10 registration forms, and several of them had come back to their headquarters for more.

Burrows said on Sunday they had registered more than 150 voters in New York alone — 74 had birthdays in 1999 or 2000 — but about half the volunteers had not yet turned in their registration forms and were expected to bring them in next week.

“The engagement has really increased and I think it’s an awareness,” said Burrows. “People are really understanding the power of the vote and that’s what’s really motivating a lot of them. They’re figuring out the importance and power of civic engagement.”

Voter registration is the first option offered by the website of the March for Our Lives movement — powered by Rock the Vote, a progressive organization that encourages young people to vote — and visitors are given the ability to download “voter registration toolkits,” which are state specific.

Rock the Vote did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hogg told MSNBC on Saturday that the movement plans to continue to engage prospective voters and legislators.

“We have another national school walkout on April 20, on the anniversary of Columbine, where students are going to be walking out,” Hogg said, referring to the Columbine High School massacre in which 13 were killed in 1999. “And hopefully they’ll organize it in their own communities, so they can walk out and register to vote.”