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How TikTok could define the future of political campaigning beyond Georgia

The Georgia Senate runoff has been memorable for the use of TikTok to campaign.

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Youth voter turnout nationwide has been increasing amid recent elections and it’s having a major impact on them. 

Generation Z has been doing what they know best to encourage others to vote in Jan. 5’s runoff election: using social media. 

Over the last year, TikTok has grown into a huge forum for political discourse, debate and mobilization. 

In the lead up to the key Senate races, the hashtag “#GeorgiaRunoff” garnered 12.2 million views. Each candidate’s full name also shows results with millions of views, with Jon Ossoff at 16.2 million, Rev. Raphael Warnock at 9.1 million, Sen. Kelly Leoffler at 3.3 million and more than 1.8 million for Sen. David Perdue. 

An estimated 52% to 55% of eligible voters between the ages of 19 and 29 voted in the 2020 Presidential election, up from about 42% to 44% in the 2016 election, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. 

Ben Wessel, executive director of the progressive group NextGen America, explained that mobilizing and educating voters about the runoff may have an even larger impact than similar work done ahead of the general election, due to lower overall awareness of the runoffs. 

NextGen partnered with Instagram, TikTok and Youtube accounts with large followings to spread key information about election-related dates and ballot requests. 

“It’s actually adding new information to almost everyone who is watching it because most young people aren’t aware they would have to request another ballot or that early voting is happening over the holidays,” Wessel said. 

Gen Z has already set an impressive precedent of quick organization, mobilization and education through creative and often comical approaches on social media. 

Back in June, K-pop fans and other TikTok users were credited with disrupting Trump’s rally in Tulsa by encouraging people to register for the event with no intention of attending. 

Jackie Ni, an 18-year-old who created a super PAC in July to boost Biden, is now using similar tactics to back Ossoff and Warnock through memes and interactive features. 

Ni’s MemePAC TikTok account has more than 341,000 followers. The account has posted several videos aimed at casting Perdue as a “chicken nugget” after the candidate refused to debate Ossoff. 

Ossoff himself has ventured into the TikTok world to garner support during his campaign. In his most recent video, he joined in on the popular trend of posting a video of yourself, and then posting another video of yourself side by side, to create the illusion of talking to oneself.

He spoke about the “record-shattering youth turnout,” and all the tasks that need to get done, like legalizing marijuana, saving the environment, eliminating student debt, and implementing a new civil rights act. 

He also reminded his followers that the election will determine who controls the U.S Senate. The video received 70.8k likes and the comment section is filled with positivity.

“Georgia’s unprecedented youth turnout in the general election was a result of years of Georgia Democrats’ hard work and Jon’s relentless focus on turning out young voters. Our Digital Program’s strategy is intended to meet young voters where they are: online,” Ossoff’s campaign manager, Miryam Lipper told Business Insider. “TikTok is one creative element we’re using to speak to young voters about the issues that impact their lives.”

Last month, youth-led group Future Coalition also partnered with a group called Gen-Z for Change, previously known as TikTok for Biden, to hold a virtual phone and texting banking event in support of Ossoff and Warnock. 

The event used Zoom breakout rooms allowing volunteers to phone and text bank with popular TikTok users who had more than 5 million followers combined. 

“I think we’re really building off of that momentum that we’ve built up and going a step further and really becoming creative with it and letting young people take the lead,” Alicia Novoa, Future Coalition’s director of engagement told The Hill

The youth have spoken, and they are ready for, as Ossoff has said on his TikTok, “a movement for health, jobs, and justice.” 

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