NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. – Gen Z and Millennials are voting like never before as all eyes are on the election.
Virginia Tech Professor of Political Science Karen Hult said that 18 to 29-year-olds have already turned out for early and absentee voting at least four times more than the age group did in 2016.
“That’s a significant increase to be sure, and especially among a group that tends to have the lower turnout rates," said Hult.
While young voters might not impact congressional races in Southwest Virginia for unopposed candidates or incumbents likely to win, Hult said they could make a difference in the Commonwealth and in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida.
“People have a whole range of concerns and questions and there’s beginning to be a sense in which one way to express those concerns is at the ballot box," said Hult.
Hult said the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and George Floyd’s killing could all be factors driving young voters to the polls.
Students at Virginia Tech and Radford University said that health care, climate change, taxes and international relations influenced their votes.
Virginia Tech student Jazzlyn Childs said women’s rights and social justice brought her to the ballot box.
“There’s a lot of social changes going on right now and especially, like, as a woman of color, I feel like that’s important," said Childs.
Radford University students Evan Anderson and Damion Wheeling voted early in-person.
“They don’t want to keep going back to the past. They want America to progress. They want it to go to the future," said Anderson, a sophomore at Radford University.
“You can’t complain about the electoral outcome if you don’t do your part and vote," said Wheeling, a senior at Radford University.
No matter if they mail in their ballots, vote early or on Nov. 3, these young voters want their voices heard.
“I feel like our generation just has so much to offer," said Tatum Lynch, a freshman at Virginia Tech. "And I feel like our input is so important and everybody should just vote like as soon as possible.”