Our Voices

Roe’s overturn, national reckonings among issues driving young voters to the polls this election

  • By
  • Zoe Belluck

Young voters are projected to match if not break turnout records this coming midterm election, as the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade is prompting 18-29 year olds to head to the polls to defend abortion and reproductive rights. And the climate crisis, inflation, and national reckonings with racism and policing remain on the forefront of young voters’ minds as they cast their ballots, hoping for a better future.

This section of the electorate is composed of crucial stakeholders in this midterm election, not only because these issues are at stake, but also because voting rights are under attack nationwide. Young voters are casting their ballots to make their voices heard despite voter suppression bills’ best efforts to silence them.

Despite record turnouts, the voter participation of young Americans remains, as it always has, notably below that of older demographics, according to Tufts Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). This disparity can be attributed in part to voter suppression measures directed towards young people. Notably, since young Americans’ record turnout for the 2020 presidential election, states have waged anti-voting rights campaigns, passing voter suppression laws that burden eligible voters, particularly those under the age of 30.

However, As a formidable voting bloc that champions progressive policies, young Americans are the targets of a concerted effort to stifle voting rights. College-age voters, many of whom go to school and live in places other than where they are registered to vote, are vulnerable to stringent new voting rules around residence requirements, mail-in ballots, and online voting. As Project Vote reports, changes in voter ID laws disproportionately impact young people; one in five 18-year-olds do not have driver’s licenses and a majority of those who don’t have no other government-issued photo ID. Black and Hispanic teens are twice as likely to not have a driver’s license. As demographics across the country continue to evolve as does the composition of our electorate, thereby making the youngest generation of voters also the most racially and ethnically diverse. In 2022, CIRCLE has found, there are an estimated 8.3 million newly eligible young voters for the 2022 midterm elections, including approximately 4.5 million white youth and 3.8 million youth of color: 2 million Latinos, 1.2 million Black youth, 500,000 Asians, and 80,000 Native Americans.

The attack on youth voting rights, given that young Americans are the most diverse generation of voters, bears significant implications not only for our most fundamental constitutional freedom, but also for racial equity, justice, and representativeness. As the most diverse, progressive, and inclusive generation, young Americans hold incredible power to use their votes to effect positive change towards a more just and equitable society. It is a power that young Americans are uniquely capable of harnessing and why we must work to defend their voting rights. As one of them, I’m excited to see what we can achieve come Tuesday.

Belluck is a communications intern at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and a student at Tufts University.