Young voters turn out for 2020 presidential election

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Paige Wallner

Paige Wallner, senior, shows off her sticker after she voted on Oct. 20.

Over 15 million Americans have turned 18 since the last presidential election, and as the Nov 3 election draws nearer, many first-time voters are preparing to take part for the first time. On Tues, Oct. 20, Wisconsin opened its polls early as municipal clerks offered in-person absentee voting in their offices or at satellite locations. For many teenagers and young adults, this was a monumental moment in exercising their right to vote.

A Harvard Youth Poll found that 63% of Americans ages 18-29 say they will vote in the 2020 presidential election. This is a significant rise from the 47% who said they would vote in the 2016 election. With a tumultuous year of COVID-19, racial injustice, and an unstable economy, young voters are more likely to turn out this year than ever before.

While voting can seem daunting for first-timers, numerous online resources provide information on how to register to what to bring on election day. In the state of Wisconsin, you can register to vote by mail or online 20 days before the next election. After that, you must register at your local municipal clerk or, since Wisconsin is one of 20 states to offer same day and election day registration, you can register the day of at the polls.

If you plan to vote absentee in Wisconsin, the latest you can request an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 29. However, this is strongly discouraged because of the time it takes to mail your ballot. The practical deadline for mailing absentee ballots is Oct. 27 as it takes about a week for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to get your ballot to your municipal office. Those with an absentee ballot still not mailed after Oct. 27 are encouraged to personally deliver it to your municipal office.

For college students, many of whom utilize absentee voting, turnout has been especially low in the past. In the 2014 midterm elections, a Tufts University study found that only 19% of college students voted. However, by 2018, this number jumped to 40% turnout. As we close in on the 2020 election, college students have been participating by mailing in their absentee ballots.

Lauren Berger, Class of ‘20, attends the University of Kansas, and will not be in Wisconsin on election day. She has prepared by mailing her ballot early to ensure her vote is counted. “I registered to vote in person at the Mequon City Hall, and I registered to have an absentee ballot sent to my dorm while I was there as well. Going in person was super nice because I didn’t have to worry about my ballot not being sent,” Berger said.

At Homestead, part of the senior class will also be 18 by Nov 3, meaning this election will be their first to vote in. Jeb Clark, senior, submitted his absentee ballot by dropping it directly to the city hall. “As an American citizen, I think it is important to voice my opinion and exercise my rights. I voted absentee pretty early to make sure my ballot would arrive on time,” Clark said.

Other students opted to vote in person. Paige Wallner, senior, turned 18 a few days after the Oct. 14 registration deadline; however, she voted early on Oct. 20 and registered the day of at her polling location. “It was a quick and easy process and the poll workers were excited for me as a newly registered, young voter. I was so excited to go in person and vote and even the months leading up to it. I felt proud to exercise my right as an American citizen and as a female,” Wallner said.

With the election two weeks away, there is no doubt that Gen Z and young voters have an impact on the outcome. “It is important for everyone regardless of their political beliefs to vote because the only way for the majority of the country to be represented is if everyone eligible votes and exercises their right,” Berger said.

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