Evanston hopes to “rock the vote” at the upcoming midterm elections

Eli Marshall and Noah Kayaian

With the midterm elections just around the corner on Nov. 6, anyone old enough to vote will inevitably be surrounded by voting propaganda. However, historically, voter turnout in the midterms has been consistently low.

In the last midterm election, 2014, only 35.9 percent of United States citizens voted. Younger citizens are even less likely to vote, with just 17 percent of 18 to 24 year olds showing up at the polling stations in 2014.

It’s hard to deny that low voter turnout is a problem, but there are valid reasons for it. Elections are on a Tuesday, the correct registration can be difficult to obtain, and there aren ’t a wide variety of candidates. Despite these reasons, many people don’t realize the true effect their vote can hold, especially in local elections, many of which are held during the midterms.

“Your vote really can change the course of the election in our city,” Evanston City Clerk Devon Reid says.

The Evanston City Clerk’s Office is responsible for managing elections at the local level. They aim to provide Evanston citizens with an easy and convenient voting process. For this year, one of their main goals is to increase voter participation, particularly in lower-income wards.

“You’ll need two forms of ID to register to vote,” Reid says. “Something that proves your address, and something that also proves your identity. With a state ID that has your address on it, or a piece of mail, you’d be good to go. Registering to vote is pretty easy to do.”

After obtaining the correct forms of registration, one would need to show their local polling station on Nov. 6, which can be found online at the website for the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

Despite historically low turnout, some feel that this election bucks the trend, especially with young people.

“Most of [my students are] very involved and aware of the electoral process and looking forward to exercising their constitutional right on Nov. 6,”  AP Gov. teacher Darlene Gordon says.

Many seniors are taking charge and choosing to vote in the upcoming election, while encouraging others to do the same. “Voting is your responsibility you now have a say in the world. You can finally see change and you should take advantage of that,” says senior Sasha Gordon.

Even if some are looking forward to voting on the sixth, it’s never been easy to get the youngest voting block interested. Nationally, only 28 percent of Millennials, the youngest voting block in the 2016 elections, have stated that they are definitely voting in the upcoming election.

“I understand why folks feel that there’s no use in voting. Voting seems to be our only interaction with government. Kind of like a vending machine – you put a dollar in and you get something out,” Reid adds.

Younger candidates with more progressive values – who are mainly democratic – are pulling more of the younger voters. This may be due to the appeal of seeing somebody with similar traits to them, enforcing change.

Many celebrities have been using their platform to encourage their predominantly Millennial and Gen Z fanbase to vote in the upcoming election. For example, Taylor Swift used her performance at the American Music Awards show to encourage voters and endorse Phil Bresden, a Democrat out of Tennessee. According to Vice, voter registration shot up after Swift followed her speech up with a lengthy Instagram post. Researchers believe she might turn Tennessee blue.

Part of the problem, especially with students in college, is that many who attend school out of state may not have the identification necessary to vote, or even know how, which is why the Evanston City Clerk’s Office has tried to make the voting process as easy as possible.

But even then, plenty of younger people just really don’t feel the need to vote, especially in an election that isn’t a presidential election.

“There is at the local level a lack of participation or disconnect between the local government and young folks. A lot of times when young folks get energized about an election, it’s usually on the national level. They usually don’t realize how much power they can have on the local level when electing candidates,” Reid says.

Local elections are particularly important because they’re the ones that can have the most direct impact on citizens.

“I think all citizens should know and take seriously their civic obligation to vote and participate in the democratic process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. People fought, marched and died for the right to vote and so it is something, I think, all of use should take quite seriously,” D. Gordon says.

Higher voter turnout generally makes a democracy more representative, and is something any political party hopes for in every election.

Junior Isaac Slevin, who was influential in signing students up to vote, states, “[The election] is a landmark for the Trump Administration and depending on how Democrats do is key to see how the Democractic Party will turn out for years to come.”

To increase voter interest even further, the City Clerk’s Office is hosting volunteer opportunities for high schoolers throughout Election Day. More information can be found on the City of Evanston’s website, and students can email or call the clerk’s office to sign up.

“When young folks see the impact they can have on a local level, it spurs inspiration,” Reid adds.

While Evanston does generally have a high voter turnout overall, compared to the national average of 35.9 percent for the 2014 midterm, it’s important for younger people to maintain that number, especially considering how many Evanston residents pride themselves of being politically active.

“Not voting keeps [the same] individuals/groups in charge and keeps the status quo the same,” D. Gordon adds.

Nov. 6 is coming up, and getting registered to vote is vital to get your opinions out. Voting can be done at various locations throughout the city.