Skip to main content

Young Voters are Motivated, But Still Face Obstacles

Early voting begins Thursday at Karsh Center on campus

Duke students registering to vote in a campus voter registration drive. Photo by Bill Snead
Duke students registering to vote in a campus voter registration drive. Photo by Bill Snead

The Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion decision could motivate more students than usual to cast ballots in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

But there are challenges younger voters face this year, says Sunshine Hillygus, a Duke professor of political science who studies youth voting patterns.

"Patterns of voter registration among young people point to the importance of abortion in motivating youth turnout,” says Hillygus, who wrote a book on the topic in 2020 (“Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action.”)

“Young women have outpaced young men in new registrations since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade."

Starting Thursday, Duke students, faculty and staff can register and vote early on the same day through Nov. 5 at Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center on West Campus. (Read more here.)

Young people care about politics and intend to vote, but too often fail to follow through on those intentions because of personal and institutional distractions, according to Hillygus’ book.

She says recent laws across the country could make it even more difficult for young voters.

"In the last two years, state legislatures have enacted a flurry of laws making it harder to vote -- laws that will disproportionately impact new and young voters,” says Hillygus. “Such efforts should motivate and mobilize young people to vote for elected officials who will not restrict voting access."

In addition to polling sites on campus, a campus-wide Democracy Day takes place Friday, Oct. 28. The event will feature voter registration, organized walks to early-voting sites, educational programming and other activities related to civic engagement.

Also on Democracy Day at the Nasher Museum of Art, students can use colored pencils and crayons to activate voting-themed posters designed and screen-printed by Duke professor Bill Fick. Duke Arts and Duke Create will lead a printmaking workshop at the Rubenstein Arts Center while inside the Nasher, students are invited to help activate the “Democracy Wall,” a collage of with screen-printed posters.

“We're excited to find the intersection of art and democracy, freedom of speech and activism,” says Duke sophomore Jack Fuchs.

Organizers of Democracy Day include the Nasher, Duke Arts, the student-run North Carolina Young People’s Alliance, POLIS, DukeVotes, the Duke Student Wellness Center and others.