More than 30,000 kids in 200 Minnesota schools voted in the 2018 midterms. They ranged from kindergarteners to high school seniors, and they came from every single one of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts.
Their votes did not count, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Amy Anderson, who took over the Kids Voting program in 2015, has been working with schools to make the youth electoral process as similar as possible to the real thing. Students attend “polling places” set up in their school buildings and sign in to get their ballots.
The hope, Anderson says, is that these kids will remember this procedure when they’re older.
“One of the things we know is that adults often don’t vote because they’re intimidated by the process,” she says. “They don’t want to look stupid.”
She wants to make political engagement normal for kids as early as possible, which means dutifully tallying the opinions of thousands of kindergarteners on who should be state auditor. But over the years, this position has also given her an interesting insight into the political views of the next generation. Certain trends emerge -- and they aren’t the ones you might think.
“People have asked me, ‘Why do you even do this? They’re just going to vote how their parents vote,’” Anderson says. In fact, over and over, they don’t. The standout year for her was 2016, when the nation, including 45 percent of adult Minnesotans, elected Donald Trump as president.
That’s when the kids swung hard for Hillary Clinton. She got 62 percent of the youth vote.
It may come as a surprise to some: That same year, the Secretary of State’s mock election held across 213 high schools had Trump narrowly beating Clinton. But Anderson says that’s just it; the younger the kids, the more Democratic they are -- even if they have conservative parents. This year, the kids of District 8 chose Democrat Joe Radinovich over their parents’ pick, Republican Pete Stauber.
“I have no idea why,” she says. “You’d think whatever they’re hearing at home would affect that.”
The one thing that continues to be a challenge year after year is trying to teach young kids a somewhat sanitized version of current events: politics without the anger, the accusations, the alleged violence against candidates, reporters, and constituents. Plus the name-calling -- the racism, the sexism, the homophobia and transphobia.
Politics in 2018 is a deeply personal thing, full of hurt and resentment, and some teachers regularly refuse to bring that into their classrooms. Much to Anderson’s dismay.
“We need to help [kids] rise above that,” she says. Her organization never tells kids how they should vote -- only that they should pick candidates based on what they believe, and what aligns best with their values. In a way, the Kids Voting elections are politics in their purest form: stripped of meanness and unnecessary rhetoric.
That, she says, is a lesson in and of itself.
Here are the youth votes from the 2018 midterms as of Wednesday evening:
Jim Newberger: 6,111
Amy Klobuchar: 13,319
Dennis Schuller: 3,498
Paula M. Overby: 2,408
U.S. Senator (Special Election)
Karin Housley: 7,867
Tina Smith: 11,597
Sarah Wellington: 3,404
Jerry Trooien: 2,339
Governor and Lieutenant Governor
Jeff Johnson and Donna Bergstrom: 8,290
Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan: 14,995
Chris Wright and Judith Schwartzbacker: 3,293
Josh Welter and Mary O’Connor: 2,188
Pam Myhra: 5,257
Julie Blaha: 9,026
Michael Ford: 5,890
Chris Dock: 2,371
Secretary of State
John Howe: 6,341
Steve Simon: 11,468
William Denney: 5,480
Doug Wardlow: 6,238
Keith Ellison: 11,311
Noah Johnson: 3,151