“Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command”: Young People Rock the Vote

With 2018 coming to a close, and a new year on the horizon, it’s hard to believe all that has happened in the last 365 days. An Olympics was held, a royal wedding took place, and while the world was watching those global celebrations, it held its breath in November while waiting for the results of the most important political movement in the last two years: the midterm elections.

For many voters, the 2018 midterm elections were the first time since Trump’s inauguration to make a real difference in the way the administration would be allowed to run. For others, it meant a time to hold their ground against what was being called the “blue wave”. And for a large number of young people, the midterms marked their very first participation in a large-impact election.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 14th district.

 

The results of the election turned out to be a massive leap forward for Democrats, who flipped dozens of seats and took control of the house — a significant change from across the board control Republicans have held since 2016.

But it wasn’t easy to get there.

New York City, and New York State as a whole, has a notorious history of having consistently low voter turnout, which may seem surprising — New Yorkers love to talk politics, and they’re willing to kick people off subway cars for their bigoted views.

In the last Presidential election, only 57% of eligible voters cast a ballot, and in the last midterm election only 34% statewide made their votes.  New York is also one of the several states that does not allow for early voting, or same day registration. 

It’s as thoug they’re trying to make it difficult for us.

 

2018_10_turnoutnyc.jpg
A graphic from The Gothamist, illustrating the voter turnout for the 2018 midterm primaries – the better the letter grade, the higher the turnout.

 

Clearly, New York City was all over the board — but the numbers for this year’s midterm election spiked dramatically. Though Andrew Cuomo was easily reelected, the voter turnout in New York State shot up to just over 45%. In the city, the turnout rose from 22% in 2014, to 38%. Nation wide, the trend continued, with 48% of eligible Americans voting. According to the New York Times, this is the first time the turnout has been so high since 1970.  These numbers are still shockingly low, but certainly a step in the right direction.

“People will vote when they believe their vote matters,” said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. “What induces people to believe their vote will matter? Well, having a competitive election where they may actually be able to cast a ballot and affect an outcome.”

And, of course, it’s probable that this would not have been possible without the young people who spent the last year marching for gun violence prevention, women’s rights, and much more.

“It is highly likely that this election was younger and more diverse than any midterm election this country has seen in some time, based on early voting data and matching it up with county-level data,” said Tom Bonier, chief executive of TargetSmart, an analytics firm that studies voter data. “It is imperfect, but the data does point in that direction.”

Image result for 2018 midterm voting in nyc
Credit: Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

So what about these young people? What were there thoughts on the midterm? Below are some comments from Brooklyn College undergraduates:

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