11/09/2012 04:39 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2013

One in Five: A Math Lesson on the Power of the Youth Vote

Many people have written off the youth vote this election season. I'm starting to worry that those dismissing the impact that young people can have on our democracy may be in need of a brief math lesson. So two days post-election, here are the real numbers about the youth vote this year:

One in five. That's the proportion of the voting-age American public who were between the ages of 18 and 29 this election. Young people represent one of the largest voting blocs in the country.

Four in ten. The fraction of youth who identify as non-white. Representing every possible background and community in the country, Millennials are the most diverse generation in American history.

Seven in ten. The proportion of youth who said they were paying attention to the election this year (either "some" attention or "a lot" of attention). It's also the proportion of young people who believe that youth have the power to change things in this country.

One in two. The proportion of Americans ages 18-29 who voted in yesterday's election, making up 19 percent of the total electorate.

Not only do young people believe they can change things, they already are. Despite the fact that the majority of young people were not directly contacted by either campaign, at People For the American Way Foundation's Young People For program, we know that young people all across the country were taking initiative to organize themselves.

At Pitzer College in California, student leaders organized a caravan to the polls. They arrived in style, providing students electric go-cart rides from campus to the polling station. At Oberlin College in Ohio, young people held voter information events, phone banks, and dorm storms. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, they sang to get out the vote. Local bands and a cappella groups performed everything from jazz to techno while attendees got excited about making their voices heard on Election Day. And these are just a few of the events that the student leaders we work with organized this year, collectively reaching thousands of students across the nation.

Research has demonstrated that when young people are asked to get involved, they do. It has shown that when young people start voting, they keep voting. It's a chain reaction that begins with the simple act of one person reaching out to another.

Yesterday we saw this happen for young people across the country, as 22 million young people turned out to the polls. And these turnout efforts made a very real difference. Florida State University, for example, where youth organizers worked tirelessly to get their peers registered and to the polls, saw a 29 percent increase in voter turnout over 2008.

Through their hard work organizing, training, and mobilizing their peers for GOTV efforts -- and their strong turnout at the polls -- young people are the real teachers of this lesson. A glance at the numbers shows just how powerful the youth vote is.