BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Nationally, voter turnout rates for Tuesday’s midterm elections were expected to have reached historic records, specifically among millennials. The election fever was seen here in Queens as well. The Queens Tribune paid a visit to PS 150 in Sunnyside, which is within the 14th Congressional District where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
In the evening hours at the polling site, millennials eager to take a selfie with their “I Voted” sticker were out in numbers.
“It’s great to see this big a turnout among millennials,” said Jenna, 28. “I think for too long, we didn’t know that our voices count; that’s why what we see in government doesn’t reflect us. We can’t expect progressive policies if not enough progressives are voting. So to see so many millennials getting out to vote and using their platforms to encourage others to vote is great.”
Jenna said social media played a huge part in driving millennials to the polls.
“Everyone is posting their selfies on Instagram and Snapchat,” said Jenna. “If you haven’t voted or had no interest in voting, seeing everyone else do it makes you want to be in with the crowd. It’s the power of the selfie.”
Jenna was the only millennial we spoke to who said she flipped her ballot, voting on the three proposals the city put forth to change campaign finance laws, set term limits on community boards and create a Civic Engagement Commission. Jenna said she was informed about the proposals.
“My government professor dedicated a whole class last week to the proposals,” said Jenna. “I never really go to community board meetings, and the times that I have gone were with my mom. It’s not engaging for me because the people on the board are so old with different views than mine. It’s not a reflection of the growing population of millennials in our district.”
Maddy, 26, said that “everyone had been bombarding” her to go out and vote, and although she’s not concerned about her district or the city, she’s worried about the rest of the country.
“Considering the current circumstance with our House, Senate and our president, we really have to kind of fight this one out,” said Maddy. “That’s why everyone is pushing to get people out to vote. Our government is very Republican dominated. It’s not about any issue in specific at this point. It’s mostly about hitting those numbers and getting some Democratic control.”
Maddy said she’s seen more millennials involved in politics than ever before.
“Millennials are so open-minded and are trying to spread the word and be active about our future,” said Maddy. “It’s awesome to see this turnout.”
Jackie, 31, said the country is too divided and it’s time to see change, which is why she voted for Democrats. She said it’s important that there’s been a big millennial turnout for this midterm election, because for too long millennials didn’t understand the power of their voices and refused to speak up.
“If you look at turnout rates, probably less than half of the millennials voted in the presidential elections and probably even less in midterm elections,” said Ethan, 25. “If you want to change the shape of the electorate, you have to change the statistics.”
A 30-year-old Sunnyside resident, who asked not to share his name, said he voted to show opposition to what’s going on in the country, specifically in regard to President Donald Trump and the Congress.
“I voted all Democrat except for Cuomo because I strongly oppose what he’s done for the MTA,” he said. “But aside from that, I’m mostly concerned about national trends. The big thing for me is climate change, what’s going on in Saudi Arabia, the coalition in Yemen, 17 million people starving yet no one is really doing anything about it, and also just the total polarization of the U.S. There’s been a huge divide in how conservatives and liberals dialogue….I don’t really see the leadership, not even on the Democratic side, that really shows that they’re able to step up to the plate. Right now we need someone that’s inclusive. It’s disheartening to see. I hope that the people give it to the Democrats this time around to bring some momentum for the presidential elections, but it’s hard finding someone you can get behind in the Democrat party. You think on the higher level who’s that person that’s going to come through? Maybe we’ll see next election, but at this point it’s hard to tell. All that matters is voting and seeing what happens next.”
Adam Barela, 26, said that as a young Latino who grew up in Arizona, he knows how difficult it is for minorities due to the current leadership in the White House.
“Ever since I was of age to vote, I’ve participated in every election,” said Barela. “When I first registered to vote I was Republican, but then things changed over time. I learned what’s going on and I knew it wasn’t right, so I switched to Democrat and have been voting Democrat ever since.”
Luis, 24, said that although Ocasio-Cortez’s race wasn’t competitive, he hoped to see her win because he thinks that she’s the face millennials and progressives need in terms of representation and policy. We followed up with him Wednesday morning:
“Finally,” Luis said. “This is what we all needed. We needed Democratic control and that’s what we got. All the social media posts, all the word-of-mouth telling people to vote, paid off. Now all that’s left to do is to wait until January to actually see some positive momentum.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel