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Young voters could have big impact on Tuesday's midterms

Young voters could have big impact on Tuesday’s midterms
Young voters could have big impact on Tuesday’s midterms 04:07

MINNEAPOLIS – College campuses across America are home to thousands who may be casting their ballots Tuesday for the first time. As races tighten in Minnesota, student turnout can be decisive. 

Student turnout across the country has increased in recent elections, with a record in 2020. 


But midterms, like this year, usually see fewer people vote than in presidential years. Still, Minnesota boasted the highest turnout among college students in the country in 2018, according to data from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts. 

Turnout exceeded 50% that year on many Minnesota campuses—with some seeing participation of more than 60%. Young voters nationwide 18-29 saw the largest increase in turnout from the 2014 midterms to 2018. 

"There's a really pervasive myth or misconception at least that young people, specifically college students, just don't care about politics or elections like they just don't have the time, they don't have the energy," said Carter Yost, 21, who is a University of Minnesota Twin Cities student and deputy youth organizing director for the DFL.  "Part of what we've seen this year and what we've seen in years past is that it's simply not true." 

WEB EXTRA: Check out WCCO's Election Guide

Yost expects Minnesota students to break records again this year, and believes national trends will also increase. He credits the increased interest because of "the stakes of the moment" and cites the 2016 election and the Trump administration as a catalyst for participation.  

Issues he hears about driving Democrats: affordability of school, climate change and the future of abortion rights.  

"If you're a college-aged voter 18-25, every election you've been eligible to vote is the most important of your lifetime," he said. "Young people will determine a huge number of races in this state and across the country this year." 

Jacob Ringstad, vice chair of the Minnesota College Republicans and a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, agrees that student turnout could be consequential in several races in for statewide and federal office.  

He observes that sometimes what keeps people from the polls is barriers to entry—not knowing how to register, how to vote absentee and "the stress of having to plan that on top of everything." 

"I hear all the time, 'oh I'm just one vote am I really going change an election?'" Ringstad, 22, said. "Well if you have a bunch of people that think they're just one vote – if they can come out and vote things can change. It can change the course of an election and the direction of the country."  

He said he hears from students supporting GOP candidates that energy prices, cost of living, and crime are top issues motivating them to vote.   

"We're seeing a lot more students be a little more bold – being like, 'yep I really don't like how things are going right now and it's come to the point where I can't sit back anymore,'" he said.  

The 2020 election had a 21st century record-setting turnout at nearly 67%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. But Americans ages 18 to 24 trailed older voters in their participation. Among college students, the turnout was 66%, according to a Tufts University report analyzing more than 1,000 schools. 

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