President Donald Trump has said in his campaign for reelection this November against former vice president Joe Biden, the 2020 election is, “the most important election in US history.” In addition, according to a recent poll, 69% of Americans believe the upcoming election is the most important election of their lifetimes.
Addison Miller, National Committeeman of Young Democrats of South Dakota and director of the USD student organization Get Out The Yote, said he agrees with both of these points of view in a way.
“I think every election is the most important ever,” Miller said. “The thing is every election changes the course of American history so every election year is important.”
However, in past elections younger generations have not voted at as high of rates as older generations. In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 46.1% of 18-29 year-old Americans voted in the 2016 election. This was over 12% lower than any other age group.
Miller said this has resulted in younger generations not getting political candidates to care about the issues Generation Z and millennials care about.
“We’re not the group that gets pandered to because we are not the group that is going to go out and vote and until we start voting that’s going to continue and for good reason,” Miller said. “If I was a campaign analyst on Biden or Trump’s campaign I wouldn’t follow the college polls and that’s just for political reasons.”
Locally, Carrie Crum, the Clay County auditor responsible for District 17’s election, said the county has seen a rise in first-time registered voters.
“We have had a lot of registrations in the last two weeks for people who have not registered before,” Crum said. “So there will be a lot of new voters, we just don’t know how many yet.”
Miller said one reason for young people not voting as much could be the feeling their vote doesn’t count. While this might be true for national elections, like the presidency, Miller said, he believes young voters vote counts for state and local elections.
“The election of these state and local candidates will more than likely affect the livelihoods of these college students more than any other candidate on the ballot,” Miller said. “Don’t get me wrong, the president is important and you will see the effects in tariffs and gas prices, but the state, senate and house is literally directly impacting you and your neighbors.”
For voters in Clay County, there are several races on the ballot not for the White House.
These races include South Dakota’s U.S. Senate and House of Representative, District 17’s state Senate and House of Representative and South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commissioner.
In addition, voters in South Dakota will be voting on three different ballot measures.
South Dakota Initiated Measure 26 (IM26) and Constitutional Amendment A both impact how marijuana is regulated in the state. IM26 is a vote on whether to legalize medical marijuana and Amendment A will decide on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
A poll done by Argus Leader surveyed 625 voters across the state of South Dakota from Oct. 19 to Oct. 21 and reported 75% of voters supported IM26 and 51% of voters supported Amendment A.
The third ballot measure, South Dakota Constitutional Amendment B, is a vote on whether to allow sports betting in Deadwood, SD.
One concern amongst voters this year is how reliable mail-in and absentee ballots are. However, both Miller and Crum said they completely trust the mail-in and absentee voting systems.
“I think there is a lot of misconceptions about mail-in and absentee voting and if I could convey to the voters anything it is that their ballot is secure.” Crum said. “We have a lot of safeguards in place to prevent voter fraud and there are ways for voters to track their ballot.”
Crum said she also believes it is safe for voters to vote in-person despite some people’s concerns about potentially contracting COVID-19 from voting in-person. She said the Clay County election committee has done a detailed job making sure there is no risk for in-person voting.
Some efforts that will be made by polling places include one-way voting lines, poll workers wearing masks and gloves, sanitizing polling stations after every voter and single-use pens.
Voters in Clay County who choose to vote in person can go to one of four polling places in Clay County. Vermillion residents will vote at the National Guard Armory located on 603 Princeton St., Vermillion, SD. The rural polling places are as follows:
SESD Experimental Farm – 29974 University Rd., Beresford, SD
Legion Hall – 101 Montana St., Wakonda, SD
4H Center/Fairgrounds – 515 High St., Vermillion, SD
All polling places in Clay County will be open for in-person voting on Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Crum said another worry amongst voters was amplified on Oct. 21 when the CIA and FBI held an unplanned press conference reporting Iran and Russia have been actively interfering in the election. The briefing detailed voters in several states receiving intimidating emails from disguised Iranian accounts to vote for a certain candidate.
As of the Oct. 27, none of these emails have been reported by someone from South Dakota.
“(Intimidating emails) are not coming from an official source,” Crum said. “They should probably treat that just as they do any other spam email or phone call. They can report it to us or the authorities.”
Both Miller and Crum said the national election results will not be in for several days or weeks after Nov. 3. They said this is because of the increased use of mail-in and absentee ballots due to the pandemic. However, Crum said the election results for Clay County will be in by the end of election night.
“On election day we are not going to know who won and that’s just that,” Miller said. “So after election day let’s just take a second to breath… we’re going to know eventually, so do some other stuff and take your mind off politics a little bit until someone wins.”