Senior students add to the youth voter surge in the 2018 midterm election


Debra Klevens

Handing an ‘I Voted” sticker to a participating voter Nov. 6, junior Hasan Rizvi works the midterm election at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church. Rizvi and other US Government and Politics students volunteered at the polls from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to hand out stickers and help to keep things organized. “I really enjoyed it,” Rizvi said. “It was nice to talk to older people and help them out. It was a good experience seeing how an election works and how polling works.”

Maria Newton, Features Editor

The number of early voters aged 18-29 is up 188 percent from the 2014 midterms. Twenty-two million more voters showed up to the 2018 ballots than the 2014 midterms in the record-breaking turnout; it was the first time the number has ever exceeded 100 million with 49 percent of the voting population participating. Within this surge, voters aged 18-29 accounted for 13 percent of all voters rather than the 11 percent they made up in 2014.

This surge is reflected in two students who took to the polls for the first time this Tuesday. Senior Peyton Gaskill turned 18 years old in September and registered to vote at the student-led voter registration day.

“[I knew I was going to vote] before my birthday. I’ve actually been really excited to vote for a long time now because of the environment of people I grew up around [who told me how important it is],” Gaskill said. “I even made a post on my [Instagram account] about how I was excited to do my civic duty.”

Gaskill is not the only one who was getting ready to vote early. Senior Meghan Beckmann also celebrated a fall birthday and voted in the midterms.

“I woke up [on Tuesday] to my mom yelling that she was going to go vote. I didn’t think anything of it, but then I was like ‘oh, wait, that applies to me, too’,” Beckmann said. “It was very eye-opening to realize my [new] duties.”

When the voting day gets closer, register voters receive a flyer in the mail with their name, polling place and a sample ballot which shows what a person will be voting on. Voters can also check their sample ballots online.

“It can be overwhelming and I had to research all my options,” Gaskill said. “There’s a lot of websites with different biases, so I tried to look at both sides.”

Beckmann has grown up learning about the importance of voting from her parents and community.

“All my life I’ve learned that I should vote because, if I don’t, I don’t get say and I can’t complain [about the outcome],” Beckmann said. “You [should] vote so your voice can be heard. And if things don’t end up going your way in the outcome, then fine, you can complain. But at least you have put forth the effort.”

In agreeance with the national trends this election, Gaskill feels that the attitude of Generation Z inspired many young voters to make it to the polls.

“I’ve always known the importance of voting,” Gaskill said. “I’m glad that the turnout this year was so much greater, I think our generation is really pushing for political activism, which is great.”

Both Beckmann and Gaskill felt they were among few young people at their polling places early in the morning despite the surge. They encourage more young people to follow the trend and get involved.

“Even if the vote doesn’t go your way, every vote does matter. Voting is the easiest way to be politically active,” Gaskill said. “You just go in and fill in a couple of boxes, but you’re telling the government how you want things.”

Even with a surge in young voters who tend to lean democrat rather than republican, Republican Senator Josh Hawley and Republican Representative Ann Wagner were elected into office in Missouri.

“I still feel small, but I feel like I’m apart of the bigger equation of where this country is going,” Beckmann said. “I hope that I can help [the situation of the country] for somebody, somewhere.”

Young voters were still heard throughout the country, however, with many margins between republican and democratic representatives being smaller than before. Twenty-seven seats in the House of Representatives were flipped from red to blue, (not that all of that can be attributed to young voters alone).

“Hearing some of the things that passed, I am shocked,” Beckmann said. “I feel that the younger generation had a lot more to say than most people thought, and I don’t think we’re ever going to allow ourselves to not be heard.”