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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Turnout trends illustrate young voters’ power to influence election outcomes

Former chair of Democratic National Committee highlights importance of Democratic power in Wisconsin
Abbey Handel

The 2022 midterm elections are pivotal in determining the political climate in Wisconsin and the nation.

The outcome of the gubernatorial race will decide Wisconsin’s future direction, as Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has acted as a last line of defense to many far-right bills constructed by the state legislature. On the federal level, Democrat Mandela Barnes is running against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in a race that has huge implications for control of the Senate.

There is no doubt that young voter turnout, especially here in Madison, will be a decisive factor in determining both races. Former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez said he agreed.


“If young people turnout in Wisconsin, Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes are going to be elected and re-elected,” Perez said. 

Young voters, unfortunately, do not vote at the same rate as their older counterparts, with the turnout in the most recent midterm election being more than 10% lower than the next nearest age bracket. Perez, however, was optimistic, explaining how there has been an enormous increase in young voter turnout since the 2018 midterms and the 2020 general election.

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The University of Wisconsin student voter turnout increased by 7.4 percentage points in the last presidential election. This could represent the beginning of a trend toward greater youth turnout after a long period of stagnancy.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we’ve got to make sure we continue that momentum,” Perez said.

Part of the issue with mobilizing voters is that Wisconsin has various obstacles that make it potentially challenging for young people — especially college students — to cast a ballot. Wisconsin has made it notoriously difficult for out-of-state students attending a UW school to vote. IDs issued by Wisconsin universities are not accepted for voting, creating a frustrating obstacle for those who intend to register using their college address.

Not to mention, nearly half of young Americans believe their vote is inconsequential. But, the upcoming midterm election is still undetermined and every demographic will play a significant role in the outcome. Wisconsin’s college student population makes up over 7% of the eligible voting population. In an election as close as this one, this reliably liberal demographic can alter the outcome.

This is why Democratic politicians and leaders need to make a more concerted effort to promote the importance of youth voting. Young Americans are among the Democrats’ most reliable base, and if Barnes and Evers want to prevail in their races, these voters will have to turn out in large numbers.

All young people in Madison, especially those who attend UW, will benefit under a Democratic administration.

“Tony Evers has been looking out for students,” Perez said. “And, the Republican candidates are doing just the opposite.”

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Perez is now urging young people to get out and vote. In the 2018 midterms that saw significant Democratic gains, young voters nearly doubled their participation in the election compared to the 2014 midterms. They still, however, lagged far behind their older counterparts, showing just how much of a turnout problem the demographic has.

If young voters in Wisconsin and across the nation want to exert significant influence on our politics and elect leaders like Evers and Barnes, they will have to continue increasing their numbers at the ballot box.

“If young people vote, we win,” Perez said.

Abbey Handel ([email protected]) is a freshman studying journalism and political science.

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