By Luke Cai
Midterms have historically had lower voter turnout in modern American history, but this year’s midterms have set new records. In a survey sampling over 250 people Worcester county, half of which are Worcester State students, over 70 percent of people sampled voted in the election. The number of people who voted in the sample surveyed increased from 2016 when only 61 percent of people voted. In addition, the survey, conducted in a recent sociology capstone, found that over 45 percent of the sample stated that their interest in US politics has increased since the 2016 presidential elections. As voting constituents surged nationwide, many Worcester State students who voted seemed to vote out of civic duty.
“It is my duty as a United States citizen to vote,” said Liam O’Malley, a criminal justice major and junior from Mansfield, MA.
The Washington Post reported that more than 30 million Americans had already voted early by November 2, eclipsing 2014 early totals nationally, including states that doubled voter turnouts such as Texas and Nevada. Of Massachusetts’ 4.5 million people registered to vote, one million voted early, already matching the national average during the 2014 midterms. Students, in particular, have matched several statewide and nationwide trends but are particular in their incapacity.
Midterms are held every four years in November. State citizens can vote for ballot initiatives, local representatives, and their members of Congress, including their state representatives and senator. This year’s general election ended on Tuesday, Nov. 6. This year had three ballot initiatives concerning healthcare, campaign finance, and LGBTQ+ issues. To be specific, the questions asked voters whether or not to set limits on the number of patients a nurse could be assigned, create citizen commissions to limit constitutional corporate campaign finance spending under Citizens United, and uphold a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, particularly transgender/gender-inclusive restroom use. Of these three questions, the first was defeated and the latter two were approved. Despite upsets across the country in the 2018 midterms, there were few surprises in Massachusetts. Popular candidates Charlie Baker (R) and Elizabeth Warren (D) were easily reelected.
Massachusetts has 4.5 million people who are registered to vote. Roughly 2.5 million people are unenrolled, meaning they’re not Democrats or Republicans. The state has 1.5 million registered Democrats and 471,383 people are registered Republicans, according to the State House News Service. However, it was difficult to find statewide aggregates of precinct voting trends, but voter turnout is already at a higher percentage than previous midterm elections.
Worcester State students, in particular, have had various reasons for voting and not voting. For many students, this election is the first midterm students will be able to vote in. For instance, Trey Palczynski, a junior majoring in psychology, did not vote in the election due to dislocation. Palczynski’s hometown is Coral Springs, Florida and to vote he would have had to go home or get an absentee ballot.
Political activism has increased nationally on all ends of the political spectrum. Many voters have been influenced by such movements as the #MeToo Movement, MarchForOurLives, and BlackLivesMatter as well as through their countermovements. Republicans, in particular, have become more motivated since the Kavanaugh hearing, according to the Daily Wire.
Students voted for a variety of reasons, but mostly out of civic duty. Christian Shadis, a freshman with a mathematics major, voted on election day, believing that it is his responsibility to have a say in our government. Shadis follows politics during every midterm and presidential election. Social theories may attempt to answer the hypothesis. Higher educated people, for instance, from middle-high income vote more often, according to some social strata theories. In addition, lower income or historically discriminated communities vote less out of financial struggle, difficulties, and a sense of being unrepresented. Nonetheless, students at Worcester State appear to struggle with location and life as a college student more than issues of socioeconomic status. For instance, Morgan Brogie, a WSU junior majoring in Public Health, did not vote in the election.
“I feel like I just vote for the president,” Brogie said. “For smaller things, I don’t have the time. These smaller things with conflicting sides, I don’t know who to pick.” About the three ballot questions, Brogie said, “I don’t really care either way. If I felt strongly about the issues I would vote.”
In addition, Brogie said that she would have had to go home to Shrewsbury to vote. In addition to dislocation, several students have found that political activism can take a toll on one’s busy college life. For instance, Emma Greenberg, a freshman biotech major, voted absentee out of a sense of civic duty. However, she is not particularly interested in politics.
“It all depends on the season,” she said. “Like, in the summer, I have to put in a conscious effort to watch the news. I have a news app [on my phone], but I don’t look at it often and if I have something pinged up I’ll look it up. But not else.”
In contrast, Amelia Massinger, a freshman with a Business Administration major, did not vote because she was not able to get a ride home to her voting location. However, she values the importance of voting.
“It is our civic duty to vote,” Massinger said.
Voting is a constitutional right and remains a civic right under America’s founding documents. Students who vote, nonetheless, appear to have a mutual consensus: voting is a civic duty and should be upheld.
With reporting by Nicole O’Connell, Luke Cai, and Jonny VanderSea
Read more on the Masslive, Ballotopedia, the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center