University of Wisconsin-Madison students lined up at Memorial Union and Union South this morning to vote in the midterm elections. Several students said their motivations to vote were rooted in the several issues addressed by candidates.
“Abortion rights are at stake, LGBT[Q+] rights are at stake, climate is at stake, immigration is at stake, workers rights are at stake, there’s a lot at stake,” said student Nick Tierney before waiting in line to vote at Memorial Union.
Although, Tierney said he is not specifically enthusiastic about voting for a specific candidate.
“[I’m] excited to vote against Ron Johnson,” Tierney noted.
Echoing this sentiment, UW-Madison student Nick Cliffer said he is voting along party lines.
“This time, I am just voting along the party I tend to agree with more,” Cliffer said.
With polling numbers for Wisconsin’s Governor and U.S. Senate races incredibly close, many students felt extra motivated to vote in this election.
“I just feel like this is a really contentious election and what I believe in is up at stake, so it really motivated me to go to the polls more than any other year, for governor and for senate,'' said student voter Ian Gross.
UW students expressed they were inspired to vote because of the need to counteract candidates that do not share their values. The referendum questions about abortion access, marijuana legalization and nullifying past offenses directly address issues that are important to students.
“They are very important to politics today and how that will affect our future,” Renya Koran, a poll worker at Union South, said.
Trygve Ogrady, an out-of-state student from North Carolina, explained that he is from a “red county, so sometimes [he feels] like it is not important to vote there.” Ogrady likes that he has a “chance to get Ron Johnson out of power by voting in Wisconsin.”
When asked why they came out to vote on a busy Tuesday, many students clarified it was more than just the swing nature of Wisconsin that motivated them to vote.
“I feel like with any election there’s always a lot at stake, regardless of whether it’s a midterm election or a four-year election,” said student Prathik Gadiraju.
“It is important to consider the impact of these issues on people’s lives,” another student, Max Chaffer, added.
Robin Jolly, a student originally from Massachusetts, voted alongside other students for the first time in this election.
“I really wanted to register to vote in Wisconsin and contribute my vote to this election,” she said.
Because there are many first time voters, student poll worker Katie Perkins said “a lot of people are registering on the spot today.”
Many other students like Perkins are working the polls this year. The process is “pretty straightforward,” according to student poll worker Liam Duffy.
“You just apply on the clerk’s website and go to a couple of trainings a year,” he said.
Another student poll worker, Reyna Koran, said “you learn a lot, you’re doing your civic duty and you learn the process.” By learning the election protocol during the training process, Koran learned that “it's very hard to steal an election.”
The large voter turnout caused a lot of traffic for poll workers.
“Because we’re in such a highly populated student space, registering people and making sure everyone has the correct documents and everyone has access to voting has been the largest struggle,” Perkins said.
Another challenge for poll workers this year is the fact that voters must go to their assigned location in order to vote.
“A lot of people don’t know where their polling places are, so they come here and think they can vote here,” Koran said.
Even with these challenges, poll workers like Perkins are happy to work in elections because they believe it is important that voting is accessible so people can have their voices heard.
“I just wanted to make sure everyone had access to voting and make sure that no polls had to close down because of short staffing,” Perkins said.