Youth voter participation drastically declined during last week’s midterm elections.
Approximately 20 percent of 18-29 year-olds voted on Nov. 2, marking a 3.5 percent decline in youth voter turnout since the 2006 midterm elections. In the 2008 presidential election, youth voter turnout was higher than 40 percent.
According to the United States Students Association, while this year’s midterm saw about half as much youth involvement compared to 2008’s presidential election, their specific voter registration campaign saw large improvements.
Representing over 4.5 million students from over 400 campuses nationwide, the USSA held a teleconference on Nov. 3 discussing the success of their nationwide youth voter registration and education campaign.
Although only 20 percent of eligible youth voted on Nov. 2, USSA President Lindsay McCluskey said the organization experienced a 25 percent increase in student voter registration as compared to the 2006 midterm election.
“After such an unprecedented show [in the 2008 presidential election] for young voters, we have all heard media saying we were not showing up at the polls,” McCluskey said. “Many precise numbers are not in yet, but the reports of young people not showing up are something we want to look at with a critical eye.”
Furthermore, USSA Vice President Victor Sanchez said targeting voting districts with historically low youth turnout and little representation could have done more to increase participation from the youth demographic.
“It is important to keep in mind where [young] people organize and where there is little involvement,” Sanchez said. “Candidates either waited last minute to reach out to the youth or they did not call in at all to youth voters this election.”
According to McCluskey, USSA is currently working to influence Congress to adopt the D.R.E.A.M. Act and grant undocumented students residency after graduating from an institution of higher education.
“It is important that the majority of youth voters know about the D.R.E.A.M. Act,” McCluskey said. “It will break down barriers for college access for undocumented students that otherwise cannot get into a higher education.”
Max Roswell, a third-year biology major, said his own experience in voter registration efforts through CALPIRG illustrated undocumented students’ lack of agency in the electoral process.
“I remember asking a man that looked college-age if he was registered to vote,” Roswell said. “When he said he was unable to vote because he was undocumented, I realized that the rest of us needed to vote for those candidates that would advance social justice and allow youth like him to vote like the rest of us.”