2022 Midterm Elections: First-Time Voters Reflect


Kendall Eddington, Editor-in-Chief

Say goodbye to obnoxious political ads on YouTube and colorful campaign signs roadside: election season is over. The 2022 midterms notably decided the political makeup of Congress and the Senate. Democratic candidates performed better than experts predicted, winning critical races in a handful of swing states and maintaining a 50/50 majority in the Senate, however Republicans gained control of Congress and currently hold 220 seats. Predictably, Illinois re-elected Governor JB Pritzker, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and a majority of Democratic US Representatives. Worker’s rights were also on the ballot in Illinois, and voters agreed to add a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining. 

The outcome of the election rested on voter turnout rates, especially youth turnout. 27% of young people aged 18-29 turned out to vote this election, the second highest youth turnout rate in the past thirty years according to a preliminary estimate from Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).  

Any citizen that turned 18 before the Nov. 8 election date could register to vote, allowing many seniors from Wheaton Warrenville South to vote for the first time in this critical election. “I just turned 18 in October, so I am excited to have a say in our elected officials for the first time,” senior Ella Schechter said.

“I thought it would be a lot harder to register than it actually was, but I decided to vote in the election because my generation is the least likely to,” senior Karissa Garnache, who was initially hesitant to register, noted. “When I was voting, I was the youngest person there by far.” 

While the number of youth voters has increased in recent years, 18- to 24-year-olds still showed the lowest turnout rates of any age group in 2020 according to the Census Bureau. However, experts from Tufts University are focused on dispelling myths that youth are apathetic about voting. They claim that our society does not teach them how to vote or why their vote matters, and that a long list of logistical reasons (no time off work, lack of transportation, confusing absentee ballots, etc.) also hinders youth participation in elections. 

However, recent Supreme Court cases and a looming climate crisis may have motivated young people to head to the polls. National surveys conducted by Tufts University’s CIRCLE found that abortion was the top issue influencing youth voters in this year’s election. Gen Z also tends to lean left. 63 percent of youth voted for a Democratic congressional candidate during this election cycle according to CIRCLE, making them key voting blocs in swing states. 

Issues like reproductive rights, gun control, and climate policy remain important and relevant to young voters, and were on some Wheaton Warrenville South students’ minds as they selected candidates. “For me, one major issue when it comes to electing a representative […] is reproductive rights, especially with the recent SCOTUS decision that overturned Roe V. Wade,” one anonymous student reported. “Access to healthcare is fundamental, and that includes abortion.” 

Following the 2022 redistricting, Wheaton Warrenville South students reside in three oddly-shaped congressional districts: IL-03, IL-06, and IL-14. Democrats secured seats in all three districts, with Delia Ramirez representing the 3rd, Sean Casten representing the 6th, and Lauren Underwood representing the 14th. 

Every vote matters; if you are 18 and did not vote in the recent election, you can register to vote online in under ten minutes at vote.org.