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Metro State drums up election excitement to increase young voter turnout

Youth voter registration is up and polls indicate 14% of voters ages 18-29 said they will "definitely" vote in November's midterms.

DENVER — Youth voter registrations are up 13% in Colorado compared to 2018, according to a recent analysis by Tufts University

But, will Gen Z actually cast their ballots? 

A recent NPR/Marist poll shows that 14% of voters ages 18-29 said they are "definitely" voting in November's midterms. 

Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver hopes to increase that number of young voters. They're calling it their Voter Engagement Project which is grant-funded and non-partisan. It's an effort to get young voters registered and actually into the polls. 

Apathetic voters are defined as voters who feel politically exhausted or who feel like their vote doesn't matter. These students are MSU Denver's focus.

“I was just so surprised learning how low voter turnout really is," said Madison Larsen, a freshman at MSU Denver. "I wanted to be a part of that project and part of the push to get people to the polls."

Larsen works for the Voter Engagement Project by drumming up excitement for the upcoming election.

"I'm not here to tell you to vote one way or another. I think the ads we see do that enough," said Larsen to a group of students. 

She wants her peers to know their voice matters. 

"If you want to really improve the society you're in, feel better when you read the news, you have a voice to do that," said Larsen. “This is your world. Take advantage of the choice you have to change it."

She goes from classroom to classroom, encouraging other students to vote, even the ones who are feeling apathetic about it. 

"It's easy to feel hopeless in our society today and you read the news sometimes and everything is just kind of depressing and it can weigh on you," said Larsen. "But, I think voting is empowerment and it can bring you hope."

Christine Sheikh is the faculty lead for the MSU Denver Voter Engagement Project. She's also an affiliate faculty member in the sociology department. 

"Youth are the future and it's certainly true," said Sheikh. "We won't tell you how to vote, but we want you to vote."

She said Gen Z may soon be the largest, single voting block and therefore hold an incredible amount of power at the polls. 

"There are folks in society who may not want to hear the voices of younger people, of less powerful people, of less wealthy people, and the vote is one way in which those groups can get their voices heard," said Sheikh.

She said she understands why people may feel cynical about voting or drained when it comes to politics. 

"That kind of cynicism only gives in to the very people who want a lot of us to be voiceless," said Sheikh.

It's why she's so encouraged to see her young students passionate about building a more civically engaged society.

"I just really want to make a difference and I want to get to at least one person," said Larsen. "One vote matters so much."

MSU Denver said their students participate in elections at a high rate, nearly 66% in 2016. It was also recognized for having a "highly established action plan" by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

Check out MSU Denver's voter resources, which include information on how to register to vote, information on ballot measures, etc. 

Upcoming voter outreach events at MSU Denver: 

  • Ballot Party: Oct. 26, 2-4 p.m., Tivoli Garage student lounge, open to the public. 
  • The Power is Yours! Open Mic: Oct. 27, 6 p.m., Tivoli Turnhalle, open to the public.   


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