by Dani Cooke
In our extremely polarized political landscape, the recent midterm elections were undeniably important. An estimated 49.4% of the voting-eligible population turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms . If this estimate holds true, it will beat the turnout for the year 1966 (48.7%) and possibly be the highest midterm voter turnout since 1914 .
In mid-October, just under three weeks before election day, the 11th and 12th-grade classes traveled to Sterling, Colorado and Scottsbluff, Nebraska—two rural and generally Republican areas—to expand our view of the political spectrum in our region. In Sterling, I asked a number of students if they planned to vote in future elections. From each student I asked, I received a similar answer:
“I won’t vote, because my vote doesn’t matter.”
This perspective is not limited to the so-called “forgotten Colorado,” the parts of the state neglected by the government powers centralized in the Denver Metro area [3, 4]. Rather, I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed by my friends in Boulder and Denver. Amid intense partisan unrest, young people aren’t convinced that their vote matters.
In spite of these doubts, however, the 2018 midterms saw a massive turnout of young voters. According to Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement , 31% of citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out to vote in the most recent election. While this number may seem small, it marks a 10% increase from the 2014 midterms. And this vote is far from immaterial—in fact, the youth vote has been cited as a “powerful voting bloc” which “almost certainly” contributed to the Democratic Party’s takeover of the House of Representatives after the most recent election. Overall, in states with a higher turnout of youth voters, Democratic candidates tended to win their respective races.
Indeed, young people are far more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. However, within this generalization lies a significant problem. In the months preceding the 2018 midterms, a number of youth movements arose in order to encourage voting among students: The Future Coalition’s Walkout To Vote , Vote For Our Lives , and Box The Ballot . These movements, whether unintentionally or by design, have been almost entirely steered toward liberal voters in support of Democratic candidates.
Voting is the foundation of our representative democracy, regardless of political agenda. The importance of voting should be stressed not for the growth of one political party, but rather for the promotion informed political action demanded by our governmental system. Amid discussions of voter suppression and the fact that election day is not a national holiday, preventing people from successfully making it to the polls, those who have the power to vote should use it.
“Voting is the only way to ensure that our values and priorities are represented in halls of power. And it’s not enough to just vote for president every four years. We all have to vote in every single election.” - Michelle Obama, When We All Vote.
2018 Midterm Elections Analysis
(x) Election Results: PBS
(x) Analysis of the Election Results: The New Yorker
(x) The “Youth Wave”: The Atlantic
(x) Youth Voter Turnout Statistics: CIRCLE
(x) Trends Among Youth Voters: Harvard Institute of Politics
Challenges of Voting & Voter Suppression
(x) Fighting Voter Suppression: ACLU
(x) The Difficulties of Voting: Pew Research
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2016 Election: The Atlantic
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms: The Atlantic
(x) The Democratic Party Voter Suppression: FiveThirtyEight
(x) Voter Eligibility Information for Colorado
(x) Voter Registration FAQs for Colorado
(x) Register to Vote Online