Results from Tuesday's midterm elections are still coming in. But what's certain is the impact of younger voters. Gen Z voters are getting lots of credit from Democrats for helping stave off a Republican red wave. But, while there were large youth voting numbers in several states, the numbers were not as high in North Carolina.
In the run up to the midterms, they turned polling sites into parties. Raleigh's Shaw and St. Augustine's Universities teamed up to march to the polls. At Fayetteville State, they called it a Trot to the Polls. The goals were the same: encourage as many young voters to cast a ballot as possible.
And as the national results came in, Tuesday night, one thing was apparent: Gen Z showed up. 27% of midterm voters were age 18 to 29 -- the second-highest midterm youth turnout for any midterm vote.
The results won a big thank-you from a Democratic president facing the prospect of his party losing control of both houses of Congress.
"And I especially want to thank the young people of this nation," said President Joe Biden on Wednesday. "Who I'm told, I haven't seen the numbers, voted in historic numbers again."
"To see that uptick in the youth voter turnout across the country was so very powerful," said Greear Webb, a UNC senior who has spent his brief adulthood working to harness the political power of young people. He helped found activist group Young Americans Protest, whose member 28-year-old Mary Black just won her election to Raleigh City Council.
In North Carolina -- 53% of newly registered voters were under 35 -- more than double the last election. But while younger voters historically skew toward Democrats, they did not turnout in North Carolina in as high a number as other parts of the country.
"I think there was a bit of a 'red river' here in North Carolina," Webb said. "And I was disappointed because young people didn't turn out in the numbers I was expecting."
Webb blames a rural-urban divide: Candidates reaching out more to young urban voters while not as much to rural ones. He thinks there's too heavy an emphasis on Democrat vs Republican -- alienating young unaffiliated voters. Webb also suspects there is out-sized attention to college voters -- coming at the expense of young people who don't go to college.
"I think both parties need to really reimagine their plan to impact and achieve the gains that really are up for grabs here in North Carolina when it comes to young people," said Webb.
Webb believes the key to keeping the momentum going for young people voting power is for politicians and policy-makers to start engaging younger voters even when it is not an election year. He says young people want to feel valued -- even when they're not being courted for a vote.