Voter Turnout for Young People, Minorities Uncertain as Midterms Approach

By  - 
capitol congress hearing subcommittee on higher education
National Capitol

With the 2018 midterm elections just days away, uncertainty remains regarding how many young adults and underrepresented voters will show up to the polls on Nov. 6. Recent surveys of millennials that paint conflicting pictures of their projected turnout and numerous accusations of voter suppression in marginalized communities, however, indicate that midterm participation by these populations hangs in the balance.

Student Turnout Rates

In the past, young Americans have had notoriously low voter turnout rates, with only 16 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 casting ballots in the 2014 midterm elections. Many sources, however, expect millennials to show up to the polls in record numbers on Nov. 6. A recent survey by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) found that 40 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 say they “definitely” plan to vote next week, which would represent the largest youth turnout for a midterm election in at least three decades.

Despite this optimistic prediction, other sources suggest that the vast majority of millennials may opt out of casting their vote on Tuesday. In a new survey by NBC News and the University of Chicago, just under one-third of eligible voters ages 18 to 34 responded “yes” when asked if they are certain to vote in the midterms.

Regardless of their turnout, more young voters — especially college students — are expected to vote Democrat than Republican, according to numerous sources. The IOP survey also found that more than half of millennial voters share democratic socialist views when it comes to key issues like healthcare and free public higher education.

Voter Suppression

As previously reported by INSIGHT Into Diversity, the use of voter suppression tactics aimed at marginalized communities and college students has been on the rise in recent years. In the buildup to this year’s midterms, there have been numerous allegations of Republican-enacted policies reportedly designed to restrict minority access to the polls.

Voter ID laws, which many say target low-income communities of color, are currently at the center of a legal battle between Native American residents and white, conservative legislators in North Dakota. The Republican-controlled state instituted a policy in early October requiring voters to provide a legal ID with their registered street address when they arrive at the polls. Post office box addresses — used by thousands of Native Americans living on the state’s rural reservations — are not considered valid under the policy. Now, Native American communities and voter rights activists are pushing back, with one group filing a lawsuit against North Dakota’s Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Oct. 30.

In other parts of the country, polling places in underserved neighborhoods have been closed or the number of poll workers reduced in what voter rights advocates say are attempts to discourage underrepresented voters or even disenfranchise entire communities. A new analysis by USA Today found that “the burden of America’s shrinking access to in-person voting options” falls disproportionately on citizens in urban, low-income areas. Civil rights organizations say these are intentional efforts to make voting a complicated and time-consuming process for America’s most marginalized populations.