A record number of young voters in Tennessee participated in the midterm elections where Republican candidate, Marsha Blackburn has secured a seat in the U.S. Senate, beating Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen.
Millennial voter turnout was at a record high totaling a 664 percent increase, including early and absentee votes, regarding voters ranging in age from 18 to 29.
The current political climate forces young Americans to engage in politics and choose a side in a partisan government, said Rhodes College Political Science Associate Professor Stephen H. Wirls.
“The larger voter turnout for young people can be, almost entirely, based on the fight to win the House and the Senate on either side” Wirls said. “However, the country’s recent divide over the presidential election also brought people out to the polls.”
John Leach, a former volunteer deputy registrar with the Shelby County Elections Committee, does not qualify for the millennial voter demographic at a ripe 62 years old.
“I’m sick of what’s going on in this country so I voted a straight Democratic ticket,” he said.
“I haven’t voted in a midterm election in 18 years, but this election got me out,” Leach said. “I’m pleased that kids are becoming more aware of the politics that will dictate their futures.
Although Bredesen dominated Blackburn in Shelby County with a 65.62 percent lead in Shelby County, the state remained red.
Stacey Scott, an employee at the Shelby County Elections Commission, said that the commission has now had time to study the data collected from polls with voter turnout totaling 51.09 percent.
Voter participation in Tennessee was brisk compared to 34.3 percent voter turnout in 2014, showing a large increase.
Poll worker Molly Matheny said she saw more young people vote Nov. 6 than in all her years volunteering at polling locations.
“I believe this shows that young people are beginning to understand that their participation is needed if they want to see change,” Matheny said.
Matheny’s polling station ran out of stickers within a few hours and had an area set up for voters to pose for a photo with their “I Voted” sticker to post on social media.
“I believe voting has become cooler to younger people in recent elections due to social media and celebrity endorsements,” said Wirls. “It will definitely affect the results of the next presidential election with so many young voters voting for Democratic leaders.”