© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Long-term strategies unfold to energize young rural voters

Group of students laying on grass giving thumbs up sign
TH YAPR/Mapodile M./peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com
Students, group and thumbs up on grass for diversity, portrait and above for education at university. Friends, man and women with sign, vote or emoji for agreement, yes and smile with solidarity.

As the 2024 election inches closer, candidates and civic engagement organizers are likely to try and connect with younger voters but for college-age individuals from smaller towns, connections are few and far between.

The Rural Democracy Initiative said 63% of rural youth are infrequent or uncommitted voters and they are among the least contacted by both nonpartisan and political operations. The organization is behind a new effort to strengthen civic engagement for this demographic. Wisconsin-based groups are doing similar work.

Emma Frederick, northwest college organizer for Leaders Igniting Transformation, said rural college students from the western half of the state often feel overlooked.

"They note that this is the first time that anyone's talked to them about voting," Frederick explained. "While their parents might want to help or their parents don't know themselves, this is a new experience for them."

She pointed out one of the main issues young voters from rural areas want addressed is a lack of resources in their hometown school districts. They want to see future generations benefit from having more aid to cover things such as Advanced Placement courses. Nationally, the initiative said such voters also prioritize health care, economic well-being, reproductive rights and climate issues.

Crystal Egbo, northeast college organizer for the group, gets similar feedback on the lack of prior engagement with these students. She emphasized smaller communities are becoming more diverse and there are calls for cultural needs to be considered.

"They're also asking for having more diverse representation on their (college's) faculty and staff, having more diverse representation within local government and within community decision-makers," Egbo added.

According to the initiative, 24% of rural residents are people of color and many are immigrants. It also contended young rural voters of color, who lean toward pro-democracy policies, are significantly underrepresented in elections.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
Up North Updates
* indicates required
Related Content