Voting is a central part of our democratic process, and in the last election young adults everywhere stepped up to help create change in our country. According to the United States Census Bureau, voter turnout among 18-29 year olds went up from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018. This is the largest percentage point increase for any group of voters. Many students on Concordia’s campus were apart of this historic jump in votes.
Many Cobbers also participated in the democratic process, despite having our polling place moved off campus. Sophomore Britney Dodge voted for the first time in the midterm elections last year and believes that every vote matters.
“I think this generation has a really strong voice. Many of us were too young in 2016 to vote, and we saw what happened during those two years and knew we needed to do something, causing us to flood the polls,” Dodge said.
Junior Shofita Baych, who also voted for the first time, echoed similar thoughts. “I think the opinions of the younger generation on our current elected leaders encouraged younger people to vote.”
Baych also noted the impact that social media played in the election. “Social media also played a big role. Everyone was encouraging everyone to vote and they were showing that it does make a difference.”
Although there was a spike in voting numbers from young adults, not everyone decided to vote. Junior Alexis Cuchna opted out of voting in the last election, saying, “I decided not to vote because of my lack of knowledge based on the candidates themselves or because I don’t have a strong opinion about anything that may be going on in the world also due to lack of not hearing about said things.”
Cuchna described the pressure she gets from her family for her decision not to vote, but usually brushes it off. Even though Cuchna decided not to vote in the last election, voting isn’t completely off the table for her. “I would consider voting in the future when more knowledge is available to me. I don’t watch the news and don’t see any political things on social media. So maybe if I were to ever take any interest in the news, my mind could be changed,” she explained.
Jack Fisher, Concordia’s Civic Engagement Advocate, attributes the increase in voting to national parties in the U.S becoming more interested in students. He describes how the baby boomer generation have been the ones to benefit from the legislation that is in congress, and he is interested to see where the voices of millennials and Gen Z can bring a change in our country.
“Prominent political figures and parties are realizing the potential that college students have, and in return, college students are also realizing that we have really important voices and can determine our futures,” Fisher said.
Although this next election cycle is an off year, Fisher still emphasized the importance of voting. “This year is an off year, but being civilly engaged does not end with voting,” he said.
Fisher also highlighted Civic Engagement Week, a week where students are encouraged to become more involved in issues happening in their community. It will also include a keynote presentation by former state representative and Gender Justice Advocacy Director Erin Maye-Quade.
Civic Engagement Week takes place October 28-November 1 and is titled “Be the Change.” Along with the keynote address from Erin Maye-Quade, Fisher is looking forward to helping students learn how to become better advocates and change the world beyond voting. “Students can create real change beyond just voting once every few years, we can volunteer, create internships, read the news, or even just care about what is happening in the world and not be afraid to talk about it.”