Midterm election: Professors stress the importance of voting to first-time voters

With statistics saying younger generations are less likely to vote, voter advocates are educating students about why their vote matters.

Samantha Sheradsky, Staff Writer

With the Nov. 8 midterm election approaching, voter advocates are on the edge about what the outcome will look like for the future. 

With the younger generation being less likely to vote, some professors are educating students to realize how and why their vote matters.

Karen Leader, an FAU art history professor and a voter advocate, uses presentations about registering for general elections through Zoom and in classrooms with students who may be unfamiliar with how to vote.

Leader, who has taught at FAU for 13 years, feels a sense of urgency to get young people to go to the polls and vote.

“I think there’s a lot of really powerful efforts to convince young people that voting does matter,” Leader said.

With her presentations, Leader wants to have students think about different issues that they care about and how they can make changes to them through voting. She said that Millennials and Gen Zs are the “largest share of eligible voters” where their issues can control the interests of politicians within the next four years. 

“It makes the whole process of making a vote plan, having it relevant to your own issues that you care about,” Leader said. 

She believes that young people are convinced that their vote doesn’t count because politicians do not pay attention to their demands for change, which leaves them hopeless for the future. With this, she is determined to have their voices heard so that they could make a difference.

“I want them to become the reliable voters so that politicians can start paying attention to their demands,” Leader said. “[Young voters] are more diverse, tolerant, and vulnerable because of things like climate change and income inequality.”

According to a 2021 Harvard Youth poll, 39% of students were planning to vote in the midterm election, while 21% were not planning to vote.

The United States Elections Project’s data shows that young people, ranging from 18 through 29-years-old, vote less than elders. As a result, the U.S. has one of the lowest youth turnout percentages. 

Travis Devendorf, a senior majoring in political science with a minor in communication, is a first-time voter. 

Devendorf, 18, participated in his high school’s dual enrollment program at FAU and continued to take college classes. He will be graduating with his bachelor’s degree in December.

He has been influenced through his studies to take the next step to contribute more into politics

“I’ve been blessed to have lots of experience working with politics,” Devendorf said. “I’m motivated because this is my first opportunity to participate in something that for so long, I’ve just been able to study from afar.”

He believes that students are “often intimidated” about not fully understanding why they should vote, which leads to them not voting.

Lillie Feller, a senior majoring in sociology, is the president of FAU’s National Organization for Women (NOW).

FAU NOW focuses on social issues affecting women, such as racism and gender discrimination.

Leader is FAU NOW’s faculty advisor, and Feller has seen how helpful and supportive she is to the organization. 

“[Leader] is always there to make sure that we have some sort of faculty advocacy on our side to make sure that things are getting done,” Feller said. “She makes sure that our efforts and activism is recognized for the significance that it has on our campus and in our community.” 

On Oct. 26, Leader presented at FAU NOW’s meeting and spoke about advocating for early voting to FAU students. Feller said it encourages students to register to vote and do their own research regarding candidates.

João Staziaki, a senior majoring in computer science, has been part of FAU’s Solidarity Club for two and a half years and is the co-president. 

Staziaki became a citizen last year and is planning to vote for the midterm election for the first time. He believes that voting will help with creating better laws for the future.

A few months ago, Staziaki attended a FAU NOW meeting and listened to Leader speak about the importance of young people voting. He believes that it is good that people are encouraging students to vote, but he remains skeptical that young people will actually do it.

“Voting is a practical political move that you can do that’s going to likely make your life easier,” Staziaki said.

He thinks that FAU is not doing great with persuading students to go to the polls. FAU used to be an early poll station in the Boca Raton campus, but it was later moved to the Jupiter campus.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if 15% of the student population actually voted,” Staziaki said.

Kevin Wagner, a FAU political science professor and the chair of the Department of Political Science, teaches American politics and public opinion.

“I would encourage anyone who feels like their voice doesn’t matter to remember that it can only matter if they participate and vote,” Wagner said. “That’s what makes democracy possible.”

With the midterm election, Wagner is hopeful that people will be able to participate and make changes for the U.S.

“The reason we have elections is because things can be different than you expect them to be,” Wagner said.

Samantha Sheradsky is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Twitter @samtheham132.