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First-time and young voter participation could surge in 2018 midterms

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Less than a week remains until the 2018 midterm elections, and the question of whether first time voters and young people will head to the polls is uncertain. If history has any say in the matter, they won’t.

She felt “powerless” two years ago as she watched now President Donald Trump ascend from businessman and television host to the nation’s highest office.

“It was so frustrating,” Taylor Linzinmeir, a freshman studying journalism, said. “I was educated. I wanted to have my voice heard.”

Yet this election could be a chance for her, and for the millions of other young people nationwide who get to cast their ballot for the first time in November, to either reject Trump’s America or to endorse it — even if they won’t get to vote for the highest office for another two years.

Growing up, the 18-year-old from Hilliard didn’t talk about politics. Or religion. Or money. Talking about who her parents voted for was off limits.

“My parents don’t necessarily share the same political views as I do, so anytime we talk about politics it turns into an argument,” Linzinmeir said. “I think being raised in that environment made me scared to talk about it.”

Nevertheless, she did and still does. She registered to vote at age 17, when she participated in “Youth at the Booth,” a program in Franklin County that allows high school seniors aged 17 or older to work the polls on Election Day.

After a gunman in Parkland, Florida opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 and injuring 17 others, Linzinmeir participated at a gun control rally and memorial organized by her friends on the football field of Hilliard Bradley High School, where she graduated from earlier this year. She attended both the 2017 and 2018 Women’s March in Columbus.

Now Linzinmeir and the 8 million others who weren’t old enough in 2016 can make their voice heard in the most American way possible — by voting.

There’s been a nationwide effort to promote voter registration leading up to this year’s election. Even megastar Taylor Swift, who had been notoriously quiet about politics, spoke out in October encouraging her 112 million followers on Instagram to register to vote

Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values,” Swift wrote on Instagram. “For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100 percent on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.”

View this post on Instagram

I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈

A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Following Swift’s Instagram post, the website Vote.org, which Swift mentioned, reported 364,000 new voter registrations in the following 72 hours. The site dubs the phenomenon “the Taylor Swift Effect.”

Vote.org says it has registered 1,247,389 people nationwide this year alone. That’s almost double the 672,535 the site registered in 2016, according to Raven Brooks, Chief Operating Officer of Vote.org.

In Athens County, 3,789 people registered to vote for the first time in the county this year, bringing the total registered in the county to 45,323, the Athens County Board of Elections reported.

But there’s no promise registered voters, first time or otherwise, will show up on Nov. 6.

Voter turnout of registered voters in Ohio was 71 percent in 2016. But voter turnout during midterm elections, the year directly in the middle of a president’s four year team, is typically lower. Voter turnout in Ohio was just over 40 percent in 2014 and about 50 percent in 2010 during former President Barack Obama’s first term as president, according to the Ohio Secretary of State.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports persons aged 18 to 29 have historically had the lowest turnout out of any age group. In 2016, less than 50 percent of eligible persons cast a ballot, while more than 70 percent of voters over 65 did.

But according to a Harvard Institute of Politics poll from April, an increasing amount of young voters say they plan to cast a ballot this year.

“Overall, 37 percent of Americans under 30 indicates that they will ‘definitely be voting,’ compared to 23 percent who said the same in 2014, and 31 percent in 2010, the year of the last ‘wave’ election,” the Harvard report reads.

But it depends who you ask.

A Gallup poll from September reported only 26 percent of those surveyed between 18 and 29 years old said they were “certain to vote.” Eighty-two percent of people older than 65 said they planned to vote.

Regardless of her peers, Linzinmeir will vote this year.

“I have a duty to vote because of all the women who historically fought for my right to vote,” she said. “I feel like I have to honor that. We need more women in politics. It’s a very male-dominated profession, and I want to see more women in politics.”

Her message to people her age?

“It’s our future, so we might as well have a say in it.”

This article originally appeared in print in “Cast Your Vote: 2018 Voter’s Guide.” Read more here

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