Only 10 years ago, voters between the ages of 18 and 24 played a significant role in electing Barack Obama. The turnout for youth voters in the 2008 elections was the highest since the government started keeping track in 1972. But the 2014 midterm elections saw the lowest number of voters of the same age group in over four decades.
“Young people, historically, don’t show up for midterm elections,” said Alison Gash, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. “Are groups that don’t normally vote going to be voting this year? That’s the question.”
Regardless of that declining trend, experts say this year will be different. The 2018 midterm elections are projected to see somewhere between 45 to 50 percent total voter participation, according to an NPR interview with Michael McDonald, a professor from University of Florida who studies voter turnout. This would make 2018 the highest midterm election turnout since the 1960s, a time in American history wrought with social and cultural imbalance.
Even if voter participation is higher than usual, that doesn’t necessarily mean that young people are the cause of the increase. The big question, according to Gash, is whether or not young people will be represented in the projected increase.
Early voter projections can never tell the whole story, according to Gash. “The voter turnout projections are all based on pretty anecdotal evidence. So you never really know until the day-of.”
The 2018 midterm elections come at a time of increased polarization among Americans struggling to come to terms with a Trump presidency. The divide is evident in Oregon, with polls predicting Governor Kate Brown only narrowly beating Republican candidate Knute Buehler — who’s attempting to become the first Republican governor in Oregon since 1982.
According to the Oregon secretary of state voter registration and participation statistics, 70.9 percent of registered voters participated in the 2014 midterm elections. This is much higher than the national average of that year, which sat at 36.4 percent, the lowest in 70 years.
While it may be especially important for students to vote in this year’s election, Gash would argue that it’s always important to vote if you want to live in a working democracy.
“I don’t think there is an argument to be made that voting isn’t important,” Gash said. “Every vote counts and that becomes especially true in district elections. When you’re talking about members of the House of Representatives, you’re talking districts as opposed to states, and so the smaller the population, the more that each vote counts.”
The elections, still two weeks away, aren’t necessarily a national guage of where the country stands in regards to the ever-looming 2020 presidential election. It is, however, a chance for young people, and the country as a whole, to say what they are looking for in leadership and craft the country they want.
– By Donny Morrison
Oregon’s 5 ballot measures and what you should know
Oregonians will be filling out their ballots on five new measures with topics ranging from taxes on groceries to preventing public funds from being spent on abortions. Here is what students should know about these measures:
Measure 102: Housing — Measure 102, titled the “Removes Restriction that Affordable Housing Projects Funded by Municipal Bonds be Government Owned Amendment,” is a constitutional amendment lifting the ban on local governments working with nonprofits and small businesses to put more money towards affordable housing in their communities. This is in an effort to help Portland’s homeless crisis; however, some are saying that legislators wrote a flawed amendment that does not include what constitutes affordable housing or who would be in charge of auditing these projects.
In Support: Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Defend Oregon, gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, Oregon Food Bank, Meals on Wheels People
In Opposition: The Bike Party (a self-described political organization advocating for “safe bicycling and sustainable communities locally and worldwide.”)
Measure 103: Taxes on Groceries — known as the “Ban Tax on Groceries Initiative,” this amendment would prevent any enactment or increase on state or local taxes, fees or sale assessments when buying groceries in Oregon. Oregon doesn’t have a statewide sales tax, but there is also nothing that prevents the state legislature from creating one, which supporters say could harm lower and middle income families. Opposition says that the measure is unnecessary and is poorly written, with many tax loopholes that affect everything from Medicaid to the Bottle Bill.
In Support: Northwest Grocery Association, gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler
In Opposition: Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Defend Oregon, Nike, Democratic Party of Oregon
Measure 104: Budget — The “Definition of Raising Revenue for Three-Fifths Vote Requirement Initiative” would require a three-fifths, or supermajority, vote from state lawmakers to pass a revenue-raising bill including tax breaks like exemptions or credits. Those in support say it’s intended to help small businesses and homeowners by closing loopholes that are being taken advantage of, creating tax hikes. Those in opposition say that this would hurt those who rely on revenue, like schools, and that it would make it hard to reevaluate tax subsidies.
In Support: Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, former Oregon Representative John Davis, Oregon Association of Realtors, Oregon Business and Industry
In Opposition: Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Nike, Democratic Party of Oregon, Oregon League of Conservative Voters, Oregon Center for Public Policy
Measure 105: Immigration — the “Repeal Sanctuary State Law Initiative” would repeal the law that forbids using state resources to apprehend anyone violating federal immigration laws. Voting yes would repeal Oregon’s sanctuary state status and would get rid of Oregon’s ‘anti-profiling’ law that was passed in 1987 by both Republicans and Democrats.
In Support: Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, Federation for American Immigration Reform, Stop Oregon Sanctuaries
In Opposition: Oregonians United Against Profiling, Nike, Columbia Sportswear Company, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, American Civil Liberties Union, Defend Oregon
Measure 106: Abortion — “Oregon Ban Public Funds for Abortions Initiative” would prevent public funds from being spent on abortions in the state of Oregon, with the exception of medical necessity or federal law requirement. Supporters are saying that it only limits what money can be used for abortions, and opposers say that it targets low-income Oregonians. Oregon is one of only 17 states that uses state money to provide abortions to women who are eligible for Medicaid.
In Support: Oregon Right to Life PAC, The Oregon Catholic Conference, Pregnancy Resource Centers of Central Oregon, Precious Children of Portland, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
In Opposition: No Cuts to Care, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, ACLU of Oregon, Democratic Party of Oregon, Catholics for Choice
– By Erin Carey
ASUO brings student voices to the ballot box
After years of record low turnout by young voters, ASUO has been working to register University of Oregon students.
Over the last three weeks, ASUO organized voting registration, encouraged students to update their information and delivered the registration cards to Lane County Elections. ASUO registered 4,345 students in the first two weeks of school, surpassing their goal of 2,500.
ASUO State Affairs Commissioner Emily Chan says these numbers are important and that it is crucial that voter turnout continues to increase.
“Even if the decisions aren’t affecting you, it is affecting your community,” Chan says. “[It] is a civic duty, an honor and a privilege to vote, and we forget that.”
In recent years, voter turnout for younger demographics has decreased sharply and according to the Washington Post, turnout among those from ages 18 to 29 fell 25 percentage points between 2012 and 2014. Youth Service America, a non-profit that partners with organizations to help young people engage in civic matters, says that some of the biggest barriers for registering students to vote are not understanding registration deadlines and ID requirements.
However, the Washington Post reported that college students are easier to target because they live in heavily populated campuses.
Chan said she is optimistic about young voter turnout.
“People are turning out because they’re realizing that voting does matter, contrary to the popular rebuttal of, ‘my vote doesn’t make a difference,’” Chan said. “Voters hold elected officials accountable and decide on whether or not ballot measures should be new laws.”
Chan, who participated in ASUO’s “Vote or Vote” campaign, said this year’s elections are particularly important for UO students.
“This year, we’ll be electing our governor — among other representatives — but the governor in particular since they appoint UO’s Board of Trustees,” Chan said. “Our Board of Trustees helps decide how much students’ tuitions are. Also, our state legislators impact how much money the state could give our university, which is the deciding factor on how much tuition goes up.”
Freshman Sarah Mae McCullough said she did not think about changing her address when she arrived at college but wants to be able to keep her voice through voting.
“I knew that it would be a good idea to update my address but I was pleasantly surprised by how involved ASUO was in encouraging people to vote,” says McCullough. “Especially since voter turnout tends to be low among young people and voting is really important.”
– By Georgia Greenblum
How Californians at UO can vote
For the close to 5,000 University of Oregon students from California, it is not too late to register to vote in their home county elections. According to the California Secretary of State’s Office, California residents living out of state can register online by midnight of Oct. 22. When registering, applicants should mark they want a vote-by-mail ballot.
Voters should be careful to distinguish between their home address and mailing address. Home address refers to the voter’s permanent address in California, while mailing address means the temporary address in Oregon.
Out-of-state California voters must also provide some form of ID when they register: a driver’s license number, California identification number or the last four digits of one’s Social Security number.
If the California resident is already registered to vote in California, they still must fill out a vote-by-mail application which needs to be received by Oct. 30. Voters can choose to have their ballot mailed, faxed or emailed to them, according to the California secretary of state’s website.
Once ballots are filled out, voters can return them to their California polling office by mail, in person to their county’s polling office, in their county’s drop box or recruit people to deliver them on their behalves.
– By Franklin Lewis