1000 x 90

Voting At App State Polling Sites Show Millennial Participation Surges in Midterm Election

By Gianna Holiday

For a large majority of Appalachian State students, Tuesday was the first time that they were able to actively influence government by casting their vote.

Historically and statistically speaking, young people are not the majority in regards to who participates on Election Day. In the last midterm election, roughly 55 percent of those over 60 voted where less than 20 percent of those between 18 and 24 voted.

However, with on-campus registration and voting, students have continuously been pushed to go out and participate.

“I’ve seen a lot more motivation in politics since the 2016 election and I think it took something as dramatic as that to spark young voters,” Laura Boaggio, a junior Communication major at Appalachian, said. “I have faith in our generation. I think we are very proactive and recognize the unfairness and corruption in our systems. I think we will be holding candidates more accountable in coming years.”

Appalachian State students, Lorena Calvillo and Lexi Aldred, were also stationed outside of the voting booth as nonpartisan volunteers for Election Protection with Democracy North Carolina to help people who have had trouble voting.

“Some people are turned away after being told they are in the wrong precinct or they are at the wrong address and they’re not offered provisional ballots. So we’re out here to let them know that they can still vote here,” Alred said.

Social media and technology has also been a route for millennials to take in order to become informed before voting. This includes information about the candidates as well as the recently proposed amendments.

“I think the influence of non-profits and information being on social media has really motivated people to actually get out and do what they have to do,” Calvillo said.

Midterm elections are also historically far more unpopular than presidential elections, especially among millenials. However, the ability to register and vote on or near campus, has made it far easier for students to participate in the election.

There were several places students were able to cast their ballot which included Watauga County Agricultural Extension Office, Legends, and the Blue Ridge Ballroom in the Plemmons Student Union.

“Young people have been increasingly motivated to vote because we are constantly surrounded by all of the injustices that are a current reality to humans that are literally just seeking a better life,” Haleigh Gilman, a junior public relations major, said.

“I think as time goes on, we have to learn that the only way we can change things is to do our part,” Gilman said. “It takes individuals to form a group, and groups of people fighting for the same reason, together, are impossible to ignore.”

Some students have gone farther than just voting; others have gone on to campaign for a particular candidate or work for one of the parties within the county. Younger people on political staffs allows for them to highlight issues that matter to those their age.

“I think that a lot of students want their voices to be heard and it’s one of those things where you’re using your voice to advocate for others,” Emma Strange, a sophomore who works for the Watauga County Democratic Party, said. “Some say it doesn’t affect them but the counter to that is that you should use your voice to advocate for those who can’t use theirs.”

Although Appalachian State is considered to be a liberal campus, the district is historically blue. The innermost part of Watauga, closest to campus, is blue while the more rural outer area of the district is more red.

“So far this has been the largest turnout for any midterm election in about 50 years, so I definitely think a lot of young people have woken up to see that local politics are actually more important than they thought,” Cristel Cassil, a transfer student at Appalachian, said.

Cassil also worked to help Virginia Foxx campaign for her election.

Leading up to the midterm elections, there were a lot of hot-button issues that included the Cavanaugh hearing, the Caravan, Trump’s claim to revoke birthright citizenship, gun control, as well as the ongoing #MeToo movement.

“I feel like a lot of young people were apathetic and didn’t actually care at first,” Cassil said. Various issues may have pushed Republicans to the polls for different reasons than Democrats; while Democrats managed to flip the House, the Republicans retained their majority in the Senate.