Voters younger than 30 are the least likely to participate in elections nationally, but a nonpartisan group is working hard to ensure young adults participate in the upcoming midterm election.
The New Era Colorado Foundation registered 40,000 young voters this fall in Colorado, including 2,000 on the Western Slope, according to a news release. It was the largest independent voter registration drive in Colorado.
The group registered between 500 and 600 voters in the Durango area, including many at Fort Lewis College, said AnnaMarie McCorvie, one of the Western Slope organizers for the group. New Era organizers spent about three weeks at the college.
She found many of the young voters needed to be educated about the voting and registration process.
“There are a lot of roadblocks to young people voting,” she said.
Younger voters are more likely to move around frequently, so they are less likely to receive a ballot in the mail, she said.
Voters with money and free time are some of the most likely to vote, which tends to exclude young people, said Paul DeBell, assistant professor of political science at FLC.
Nationally, voters younger than 30 are also less likely to have time off work to visit polling locations on Election Day, he said.
Colorado had some of the highest turnout among young voters in recent elections, likely because it holds mail-in elections, DeBell said. The state was third in the nation for young voter turnout in 2014 and exceeded the national average in 2016, according to New Era.
“We are an exciting leader in the country for facilitating the vote,” he said.
As voters age, they become more and more likely to vote and seem to connect the issues they care about to public policy, he said.
Voters 65 and older, the oldest age group, have the highest participation rate nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
FLC student groups have been working with the Political Science Department on several events this fall to help educate peers about the coming elections.
The college hosted a candidates forum last week and a statewide ballot issues forum Tuesday. And students have helped plan panels on statewide ballot questions and immigration policy.
“The students who are not as involved politically don’t understand how important this midterm election is, so we’re trying really hard to make sure they have an understanding of how much it could impact them,” said Becca Judy, a political science major who worked to promote some of the events.
Young people will have to face the long-term consequences of policy decisions made today, said Judy, a Democrat.
Yet many students feel like their vote doesn’t matter, she said.
She said she hopes the forum on immigration, a hot-button issue, will help draw in students who will also learn about the midterm elections at the event.
Senior accounting major Roy Wade Adams, a Libertarian, said he doesn’t expect a strong turnout among his peers.
“Everybody on campus has a lot of emotion about it, but they end up not doing anything,” he said.
Adams said he supports the property and sales-tax increase the city of Durango is proposing. The tax hike would pay for street improvements, a new police station and other city services. Municipal taxes are some of the only taxes he supports.
McCorvie, with New Era, said many FLC students she talked to are concerned about environmental issues, specifically the protection of public lands.
The deadline for voter registration drives was Monday, but New Era plans to continue its get-out-the-vote campaign and encourage young people to register themselves to vote online, she said.
Colorado voters can register at govotecolorado.com.