We Asked Young People How They're Staying Motivated This Election Season & It Nourished Our Politically Anxious Souls

While speaking to students at University of Maryland (and at watch parties all around the country) as part of The New York Times' Get With The Times event series last week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders didn't hold back while emphasizing how unbelievably necessary it was for young people to make an impact at the polls during the 2018 midterm elections. 

"All of the change that we have seen, throughout the history of this country, it never comes from the guy in the White House that signs the bill. it always comes from mass movements of people," Sanders told the crowd. "...You not only have to vote, you gotta drag your friends out. And your uncles and your aunts." 

We've already been hearing so many stories of campuses mobilizing young voters and young people getting loud about the issues driving them to vote this year. So that change-making energy Sanders is talking about — of not only taking personal responsibility for voting but also encouraging that same kind of motivation in their communities — is something we wanted to explore even more within our community.

We asked young people at the event, online and IRL about why and how they stay politically engaged and motivated heading into the midterm elections. Here's what they said: 

"When it comes to politics I try to stay up to date by checking the news and seeing what’s happening. Since we’re in an age where our politicians are on twitter more than in their office, [I also stay engaged and active] by following them and directly tweeting at them for answers. I try to make sure I meet deadlines for registration and have already requested my absentee ballot, since I go to school out of state." - Alexis G. 

"I do my best to stay politically engaged by having open and honest conversations with friends about what is happening locally and nationally in the news. I stay informed about what is going on because it’s important to know about the issues and laws that can affect me for better or worse. By being informed, I know I and others can make a difference when we vote in the upcoming midterms. " - Carissa D. 

"I try to stay politically engaged by being informed. As sad and discouraging as it can be to read the news, I try to read a little bit everyday. On the other hand, I make sure to read from reputable sources and limit what I read so that it's not overwhelming. Another big part of my political involvement is thoroughly researching candidates for my state election. I know people feel like their votes might not matter, but I know that change starts small. One person being elected to state, local, or national legislature can make an overwhelming impact!" - Kaitlin M.

"Since I'm going to school outside of my home state, it's hard to keep track of the candidates and everything that's going on. But I try to state as up to date as possible by reading the newspaper from my area, which is mostly the Boston Globe. In terms of staying up-to-date with midterms across the country, I'd say that I try to read as much of the news as possible, listening to podcasts, reading stories, etc. But something that's really helpful is talking about the elections with my friends. Because of everything that's happening with the Kavanaugh confirmation, we've been talking about that a lot which has kind of helped us talk about other issues and what's going on in all our home states. I think talking with friends is definitely something that keeps me engaged and thinking about what's going on and forming my own opinions rather than just reading about it." - Makena G.

"When it comes to staying politically engaged leading up to the election, I always make sure to stay informed about the recent headlines and all that is happening in the political world, whether it be the recent Supreme Court confirmation or the latest bill in Congress or recent developments out of the White House. Fortunately for me, staying informed about these things is also part of my job, so it helps to make sure that I am extra on top of it. But being politically informed has always been very important to me, especially since my degree is in political science. As an individual with a political science degree, that leads to several people emailing me or sending me messages through social media to get my take on a proposition or candidate and to help them decide how to vote. It fills me with pride to know that I am able to help people understand the issues, as I present them with facts from both sides, and get them motivated to vote. I always try to stress the importance of voting, as it is our greatest civic duty. Voting is a privilege, and we must voice our opinions, whatever they may be. So I highly encourage everyone to make their voices heard this November! Vote whichever way speaks to your heart. But just make sure to vote, and grab a friend, or two, to go and vote with you!" - Emily V.

"The political climate has been incredibly overwhelming lately, so it's tempting to hide away and ignore the current events. I stay motivated by reminding myself that it's not my job to fix the entire political climate. I couldn't do that even if I tried. Once I understood that I'm not responsible for changing the whole world, I felt I huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Now I focus on using my energy to make a difference in the small ways in which I actually can, like voting, attending protests, and volunteering in my community. It's easy to feel intimidated into complacency, but the little things really do make a big difference!" - Hannah H.

As the midterm elections get closer and closer (also voter registration deadlines!), all eyes are very much on young people of the United States to see whether they'll make up for their historically low voter turn-outs in midterm elections (like, only 18 percent of college students voting. WTF.) As Sen. Sanders said, "Getting angry isn't good enough, getting empowered is what it's all about..Your job is to stand up and say 'I am an American citizen...and I damn well am gonna vote and participate in the political process." 

Do you have a story about how you're staying #committed to politics and voting in the 2018 election? Hit us up and tell us about it by emailing [email protected]