Sen. Bernie Sanders visited the Orpheum Theater on Friday evening with activist groups NextGen America and MoveOn to speak about salient election issues and the importance of voting in the 2022 midterm election.
Throughout his speech, the Vermont senator expressed what he viewed to be the stakes of the election and why youth voting is important.
“I am concerned that younger people are not coming out in large enough numbers,” Sanders said. “You are the future of this country, and what Congress does in terms of women’s rights, climate, the economy will have a major impact on your future.”
A variety of introductory speakers shared similar thoughts on the upcoming election, including representatives from groups like Women’s March, the Sierra Club, the Working Families Party and Rise UW.
Voter turnout in the United States is typically 20% lower for midterm elections than presidential elections, according to data from nonprofit group FairVote — a fact Sanders acknowledged.
“I understand that a midterm election is not as sexy as a presidential election,” Sanders said.
“When I tell you that this is the most consequential midterm election, it is,” he added.
However, midterm turnout is increasing, particularly among voters ages 18 to 24, according to U.S. News. Eligible youth turnout nearly doubled from 16% in 2014 to 30% in 2018, and 2022 early voting trends indicate a higher general turnout than any previous midterm.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway also spoke at Friday’s event. She said Republican attacks on election security following the 2020 elections indicated voting was a “superpower” for young people.
“You know how I know that? Because they are so afraid of you voting,” Rhodes-Conway said.
Audience members reinforced with the importance of youth voting.
“The youth are a huge segment of the population that typically doesn’t turn out in the numbers that it could,” one attendee said.
“I think [youth] is a huge percent of untapped voters,” another attendee said. “They have a perspective on things that’s incredibly important.”
Speakers from MoveOn and NextGen America added their perspectives on the importance of voting. MoveOn executive director Rahna Epting asked the crowd to “call everyone they can” and encourage them to vote.
“There are more of us than them. We are the majority, folks, and when we show up we win,” Epting said. “Keep showing up, we’ve got four more days — leave it out lying on the field.”
Youth voters are more powerful in Wisconsin than most other parts of the U.S. A recent Tufts analysis found Wisconsin has the No. 1 gubernatorial race and No. 5 U.S. Senate race where youth voters are most likely to make an impact on election outcomes.
NextGen America president and executive director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez said she was putting her hope in America’s young people for the Nov. 8 midterms.
“Every time our country has made a great leap forward and done something when people said it was impossible, it took the courage, the imagination and impatience of young people pushing,” Tzintzún Ramirez said.