Lauren Miller stood in the cold wind outside of her polling station in Chicago’s South Loop studying a notecard she made in preparation to vote in her first election.
Even though midterm elections typically draw fewer voters, Miller, 18, didn’t want to miss her chance.
“For 18 years, I didn’t have a voice,” said Miller, a freshman at Columbia College Chicago. “Now I do, so why not use it?”
A poll from Harvard Institute of Politics found that 18-to-29-year-olds are far more likely to vote in the midterm election than they were in 2010 and 2014. That is important because according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of recent U.S. Census data, the Millennial Generation, those 62 million Americans between the ages if 20-35 in 2016, are close to surpassing the Baby Boomers as the country’s largest generation. They are also gearing up to take over as the largest portion of the American electorate taking on significant voting power. In April 2018, Gen Xers and Millennials comprised 59 percent of eligible voters.
Maha Siddiqui, 25, a Columbia College student who lives in the South Loop, said she votes every year because it is her “right as an American.”
“This is what our forefathers fought for,” she added.
Chris Vickers-Rynecki, 20, also a Columbia College student said he voted on Tuesday because it’s his right as a citizen. “We have a right to pick these politicians, and I want to be a part of that.”
Maddy Radtke, 18, said she researched the candidates before casting her ballot. “Honestly, everyone on Twitter was talking about it,” she said. “I can vote, so why shouldn’t I?”
Chris Wilson, 21, a Columbia College student, voted in the 2016 presidential election. He voted again on Tuesday, picking candidates who supported policies he cared about like the legalization of marijuana.. “My people went through so much to vote,” he said, talking about his black ancestors. “My grandparents had problems, my parents had problems. Not voting would dismiss the hard work that came before me. It is my civic duty to vote.”
Raiza Newberry-Quiroz, 19, a student at Columbia College, had not registered before Election Day on Tuesday. She spent an hour in a polling station at William Jones College Preparatory High School first to register and then to vote. “To get your voice heard in America, you need to vote,” she said.
Dominic Ulibarri, 24, Columbia College student, also voted at the Jones high school polling station. He said it was important to vote “given the political climate.”
“I’m trying to stay informed, and I think part of that is going out and doing your civic duty,” he said.
Cade Torkelson, 19, a student at DePaul University and a first-time voter, said he decided to vote to get the “correct people in office” and to “overpower older people who are voting.” Torkelson saw an ad put out by Acronym titled “Dear Young People, Don’t Vote” featuring elderly people sarcastically mocking young people for not voting. “That promotion really got to me,” Torkelson said.
Margaret Smith, a 20-year-old student at Columbia College, said she cast her vote for a change in government. “I am tired of Republicans having control,” Smith said. “It’s a good time to remind people what has happened” since the 2016 presidential election.
Brejann Allen, 18, walked out of a polling station at 610 S. Michigan Ave and immediately walked toward the American flag posted in the election cone. She began taking pictures of her wristband with the flag waving in the background. Allen, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said she voted “because Trump is president.” Allen had also previously voted in the primary election in March 2018, making this her second time. When asked what she would say to someone who didn’t vote she said, “If you don’t vote, you might as well keep your mouth shut at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.”
Malik Hasau, 21, a finance student at DePaul University, said he was surprised to find a line when he went to vote early in suburban Chicago, but he “highly doubts” many other people his age will go out to vote. “I wasn’t planning to until my dad dragged me there,” he said.
Chris Robert, 21, a Columbia College Chicago student from North Carolina, said he wanted to vote but didn’t know how to get an absentee ballot.
“It was difficult because I just didn’t understand how to get the absentee ballot,” he said. “Back home I definitely would have.”
Palak Patel, 24, a student at DePaul University who is registered to vote in suburban Chicago, said he did not have time to vote on Tuesday. He said more millennials might vote if it were more convenient. It would be great “if DePaul had an election area to go to after class.”
Some voters took advantage of early voting, which did not require them to vote in their assigned polling station on Election Day. According to statistics released by United States Elections Project, over 1.1 million people in Illinois voted early in this year’s midterm election.
Ezra Lindner, 25, a DePaul University law student from San Francisco, said she tried to register by mail.
“I actually helped get DePaul students registered to vote at the law school and filled out my registration forms, put them into one of DePaul’s mailboxes that says it gets emptied once a day, and it was not emptied until the deadline passed,” she said. “I was super frustrated. I mean this is the election I feel like a lot of people were excited to vote in, and I voted in every single election.”
Clorice Bair, Yasmeen Qahwash, Savannah Jonkman, Zachary Keltner contributed to this report.