Youth voters hope to carry momentum forward

Taji Chesimet, a 17-year-old high school student and youth organizer, wasn't old enough to vote this year, but he did all he could to make sure his peers did. (KATU Photo)

Strong return numbers continue to signal that Oregon voters made a point of returning their ballots in 2018, including young and first-time voters.

"The results of yesterday's election showed young first-time voters the power of their voices," said Luis Balderas-Villagrana, president of the Associated Students of Portland State University, in a statement.

The midterms set the stage for what could be record turnout in what's sure to be a hotly contested presidential election in 2020.

"These issues are not something that only affect adults, they affect youth, they affect everyone that lives in America, and having that thought process going into 2020 will be super powerful, and I think we’ll have some great turnouts," said Taji Chesimet, a 17-year-old high school student and youth organizer.

Chesimet is trying to inform as many of his peers as possible about the issues and make sure they know how important it is to get involved in the political process.

"I think when you’re able to actually go and advocate for other people, that’s when you’re able to bring people together and have this collective unity of caring about issues that are going to affect our country, our city or our state," Chesimet said.

Among those trying to rally more first-time voters is Portland singer, entertainer and political advocate Storm Large. She hopes the experience of the midterms will light a fire in some youth.

"I want them to feel empowered even if they don’t necessarily get their candidate this time to still be empowered, continue to push, to continue to canvas, to continue to campaign, to continue to believe in America, believe in our Constitution, believe in our checks and balances and believe in our democracy," Large said at a political event on Election Night.

Now, that message is hitting home with at least one future voter, who's hoping to lead others to the ballot boxes in 2020.

"I think definitely shifting the conversation from something that’s really adult-oriented to something that’s much more something that’s going to affect you for the rest of your life is really powerful," Chesimet said.

Statement from Associated Students of Portland State University:

The results of yesterday's election showed young first time voters the power of their voices. This election served as glimpse to the future of how this country elects its public officials. Throughout the nation we saw many first time individuals take office and young voters are excited about it. We see a future where both Democrats and Republicans are held accountable for their actions. The actions of Democrats now that they have majority in the House of Representatives, will determine the results of 2020. Education, Healthcare, Gun Safety, Women's Rights, LGBTQ+ Rights, are only some of the issues students are engaging with. If our newly elected representatives fail to address these issues the legitimacy of both parties will be questioned, and young voters will be inclined to seek new modes of representation. Young voters are the future of this country and they are seeking a country that is fair for all and represents all.

--Luis Balderas-Villagrana ASPSU President

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