We all know that time of year. A pervading sense of anxiety lodges itself in the back of your mind. Some people attribute it to the end of the semester and the upcoming finals that brings. Others, to something else, something both within and outside of their control, sitting indecisively on the fence. The day comes. The early November chill seeps through the walls. People eighteen and up flock to the polls to complete their constitutional duty. And they wait, hoping against hope that their one seemingly-insignificant-but-incredibly-important vote will matter.
This year, young people in particular felt this urgency, in large part due to the Dobbs decision, which placed the jurisdiction of abortion rights in the hands of individual states. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 27% of young people aged 18-29 who were eligible to vote did so. While that may not sound like much, it, as CIRCLE states, marks the “second-highest youth voter turnout in almost three decades.”
Young voter turnout helped to prevent the “red wave” that many politicians and political analysts predicted. This prediction stemmed from a pattern that has been prevalent throughout the US’s history: midterm elections tend to skew toward the opposite political party of the president who had been elected or reelected two years prior. However, the “red wave” did not happen in the federal government. While the House of Representatives shifted to Republican control (Democrats lost nine seats), Democrats remained in control of the Senate even before winning the runoff election in Georgia. Democrats even gained two seats in the gubernatorial elections.
In Utah, however, Republicans maintained control. Mike Lee, the incumbent Republican, held his seat in the Senate with 53% of the vote over Evan McMullin, an independent candidate. In the House, the four incumbent Republican representatives won by distinct margins. Races in the State Congress, aside from many in Salt Lake City, also reflected this pattern. This is unsurprising as the Republican party has been dominant in Utah for many years. Since Jan Graham's election as attorney general in 1996, Democrats have failed to take a statewide office.
The political opinions of Rowland Hall students, however, largely contrast this view. While the mock election only had a 53% voter turnout, Evan McMullin won with 63% of the votes. Mike Lee came in third with 13% of the vote, behind the libertarian candidate James Hansen (18%).
The difference in opinion between Rowland Hall students and the state of Utah reflects a broader difference in opinion between youth voters and older voters throughout the US. According to CIRCLE, young people preferred Democratic candidates by a 28-point margin. Additionally, CIRCLE noticed a clear difference in opinion on topics revolving around democracy (election legitimacy and affiliation to political parties) between young and older people. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, which Democrat John Fetterman barely won, youth voters favored Fetterman over Mehmet Oz 70% to 28% compared to 55% to 42% among voters aged 30-44.
This year’s midterm elections are a clear indicator of the importance of youth voter turnout in elections as a whole, and of the importance of making registration more accessible for youth voters. This simply serves to show that young people, however marginalized, powerless, or underrepresented they may feel, have far more power than they realize and certainly more than they normally exercise.