Written by Siena Leone-Getten ’21 on behalf of the Carleton Democrats
We’ve heard it said a million times: “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” It seems like that cliche gets thrown around every election season. But as we begin to cast our ballots in the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning on systemic racism, and the opening on the Supreme Court, the stakes this year feel unprecedentedly high.
However, even without these circumstances going into an election year, college-aged Minnesotans have historically voted in numbers that suggest they view every election as the most important of a lifetime. In 2018, Minnesota had the highest youth voter turnout in the nation. On Super Tuesday this year, Minnesota was 8th in the nation in youth voter turnout despite only 19 percent of young people voting.
Youth voter participation in Minnesota isn’t just unique because of the number of votes young people are casting, but in the power each vote has. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement analyzed states where young people were most likely to influence the results of the elections and found that Minnesota ranked #8 in the nation, in part because of our state’s reputation of significant youth voter participation.
In short, Minnesota is one of the states where we as young people will have the greatest impact on the 2020 elections.
Many young people abstain from voting because they think our votes don’t matter. Past elections prove that notion couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2016, Hillary Clinton only won Minnesota by less than 2 percent. In 2008, former Senator Al Franken won his seat by only 312 votes. That seat, now held by Senator Tina Smith, is up for reelection this year.
Our votes matter, especially in Minnesota. If in March, only 19 percent of young people in Minnesota voted, imagine what our state, and our country, would look like if 30, or 40, or 50 percent of young people did. We can elect leaders like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Tina Smith, Angie Craig, Jon Olson and Todd Lippert who will take bold action to end systemic racism, stop climate change, tackle the pandemic, and address the student debt crisis and income inequality, but only if we make our voices heard at the ballot box. This cannot be the end of our action, but it is a critical start.
Voting in Minnesota has begun, and it’s important that every eligible Carleton student make a plan to vote. There are three easy ways that you can make your voice heard: you can vote by mail, you can vote early in person at Northfield City Hall today or any other weekday between 8am and 4:15pm, or you can vote on Election Day. Visit www.iwillvote.com/MN for more details on polling locations and voting by mail. Once you’ve made your plan, ask three friends to do the same. Our future is on the ballot, and it’s up to us to fight for the progressive change that we want to see!