Students and young voters reflect on topics surrounding this election and voter engagement

Students and young voters reflect on topics surrounding this election and voter engagement

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - This year there are several different topics surrounding the election, many of them impacting young voters.

Local students are paying attention to many of them and are finding unique ways to participate in voter engagement during this election cycle.

Chris Russert, the president of College Democrats at Minnesota State University, Mankato, said for him, there are two main issues that stand out.

“The two biggest issues right now deal with inequality and the way it’s affecting our generation and with racial justice,” he said.

MSU, Mankato Student Government President Andrew Trenne said he’s paying attention to a variety of issues impacting students, including support for international students.

“We’re paying attention to a lot of issues affecting things that people might not think students care about in terms of immigration policy,” he said.

“Another thing is the Coronavirus of course, because you know, that is the biggest thing plaguing our nation right now. And one thing is how do we handle it? And the Coronavirus plays very well with the economy,” said Noah LaSalvia, MSU, Mankato College Republicans Chairman.

“A few big topics that I see a lot of young individuals including myself talk about is the cost of higher education, the cost of astronomical student loans that are straggling us from our futures, the lack of access to health care and climate change,” said Anisa Omar, YWCA Board Member and president of IGNITE Women in Politics.

Omar said she’s seen an increase in engagement among younger generations.

“I see young individuals organizing on a daily basis with things such as the Black Lives Matter movement that we see, ensuring that individuals have health care. Like I see individuals organizing outside of electoral politics, but within the past few years I have seen that dramatic increase,” she said.

This year provides a unique challenge for voter engagement amid social distancing guidelines, but students say social media and virtual platforms have played a prominent role.

“We see politicians utilizing social media platforms to send a message whether that be trough Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat now, YouTube, FaceBook and even TikTok I see that outreach occurring through,” Omar said.

Students like Omar also said friend groups and word of mouth are other forms of outreach.

And as a non-partisan group, Omar said her organization also works to register voters, makes sure voters know where to find a free ride to the polls and more.

Trenne said it’s important for young voters to have a voice.

“We’ll be, as everyone always says, taking up the reigns soon. A lot of students are struggling right now, and they’re going to turn to the voting box to help make their voice heard,” he said.

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