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Despite higher DeKalb County turnout for midterm elections, no change in young voters

Despite higher turnout for midterm elections, no hike in ages 18 to 24

It was Cassandra Kamp’s first time voting when she cast her ballot for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

Kamp, 19, of Bartlett, is a Northern Illinois University student who barely missed the age cutoff to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

After missing out on that election, Kamp said, she started to keep up with politics and current events. She registered ahead of this year’s midterm election and opted to vote at an NIU polling place rather than voting by mail.

“That kind of pushed me to decide that I wanted to start voting in every election,” Kamp said, “not just major elections, like for the president.”

Of the 36,610 ballots cast for this year’s midterm election, according to the DeKalb County online election reporting console, about 10 percent came from voters ages 18 to 24, according to the DeKalb County Clerk’s Office.

DeKalb County Clerk Doug Johnson said the number of young adult voters from the last election was not necessarily notable this time around.

“We had more in the presidential election than in the midterm,” Johnson said.

Mary Lynn Meisch, chief deputy of elections through the DeKalb County Clerk’s Office, said 7,579 young adults where registered to vote as of the Nov. 6 election, which included those who might have registered for a previous election as well as same-day voter registrants. About a quarter of them registered between Sept. 1 and Election Day, she said.

Meisch said of the 1,921 young adults who registered in DeKalb County in the months before the election, 1,614 of them cast ballots, or
84 percent.

Of the 3,605 voters ages 18 to 24 who voted in the Nov. 6 election, Meisch said, 818 registered the day of the election.

Those age-specific numbers only are provided after an election when requested, she said, so she wasn’t able to speak to how those numbers differ from the last election to past ones.

“That’s not something we normally do,” Meisch said.

During the previous midterm election in 2014, DeKalb Precincts 2, 4 and 5 – all heavily Democratic precincts near NIU’s main campus in DeKalb – recorded 14 percent, 21 percent and 20 percent voter turnouts, with a total of 1,888 ballots cast, according to data from the reporting console.

The number of ballots cast in those three precincts in the 2018 midterms was 2½ times that – coming in at more than 4,900. The turnout in DeKalb Precinct 2 increased to
66 percent, while it remained exactly the same in the other two precincts, according to online data.

The three precincts recorded
66 percent, 57 percent and 61 percent voter turnout during the 2016 presidential election, with about 5,500 votes cast, data show.

Kamp said she was aware of other NIU students having to wait in line for hours on the day of this year’s election. Even if she did have to wait in line for that long, she said, she still would have made a point to vote, especially to set an example as the acting deputy speaker of the NIU Student Association Senate.

“I think it’s important that I’m part of this democratic process, and I think our generation doesn’t vote enough,” Kamp said.

For people her age, who might be overwhelmed by the voting process and researching the candidates on the ballot, Kamp said, she always tells them to pick an issue they’re passionate about – whether it’s education, immigration or health care – and vote for that.

“They’re actually voting for something that directly affects them,” Kamp said.

Kamp said she believes the best way to address voting issues moving forward and to reach out to her generation is to have more informational sessions on how to vote and register.

“I think it’s just very important to educate our generation about the process,” she said.

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