BOZEMAN, Mont. – Montana State University will host the forum “Midterm Election and the College Vote: Will Social Media Determine Your Vote?” on November 5, just one day before the midterm elections.
According to the Pew Research Center, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z make up 59% of adults in the U.S. that are eligible to vote. In the same report, however, it was noted that in the 2014 midterm election, the younger generations cast 21 million fewer ballots than baby boomers.
“I think there is a feeling of disillusionment, or that their voice doesn’t count for anything when they do cast their ballot,” said MSU Political Science major Dani Daley. “Overcoming that challenge and getting students to realize that their vote does have an impact and their voice does matter is really, really important.”
MSU Political Science Professor Eric Austin said voter turnout for midterm elections has historically been 12-13 points lower than in presidential elections. As time goes on, that number keeps increasing.
“That has grown a little bit in the last maybe ten years or so,” said Austin. “Now we see probably 20-22 percent lower turnout in these midterm elections.”
With the impact of proposed initiatives and tight races including the Senate race between Jon Tester and Matt Rosendale, Austin believes this election will be different.
“So I suspect that the gap will be lower. I think turnout will definitely be higher this time,” said Austin.
This could stand to be true especially due to the fact that Gallatin County has seen a record 25 percent of absentee ballots returned ahead of the election.
One of those absentee ballots was turned in by 18-year-old MSU student Ben Lemon, who voted for the very first time.
“It was kinda satisfying to vote for the first time just because it made me have a voice and made it feel like I had something to say,” said Lemon.
MSU student-run organizations, including the Leadership Institute and Associated Students of Montana State University, are pulling out all the stops to get their classmates, peers and fellow students to vote.
“Students are pretty fired up about having a voice and being involved in this election, and so encouraging that in the next two weeks is really, really essential and something we are trying to do and our partners in ASMSU are trying to do too,” said Daley.
“There has been some discussion that there may be greater motivation among young people to come out for this election cycle,” said Austin. “And if those numbers were as maybe as much as 5% higher, that could make some difference in some elections for sure.”
The forum is free and open to the public and will take place at noon. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. at MSU’s Strand Union Building, Ballroom B.