Why Boise State students voted: abortion, the economy, education and protecting election integrity

Ballot box
Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Despite the local population boom, Ada County saw a lower voter turnout in the 2022 midterm elections, compared to 2018. 

According to BoiseDev, Ada County’s 2022 voter turnout hit 61.4% with 186,703 ballots cast in Ada County out of 304,317 registered voters, falling far below the 78.2% turnout in the 2018 midterm elections. 

In 2018, Ada County had 245,903 registered voters, of which 192,303 voted in the midterm election, which exceeds the ballots cast in 2022 despite the county adding tens of thousands of new residents in the past four years. 

Specific numbers on how many students turned out or how much traffic university polling stations received are unavailable at this time. The Arbiter spoke with students on election day to see what was motivating them to vote and refrain from voting. 

Here’s what they had to say:

Students who voted Republican 

Cam Douglas from California, who is registered to vote in his home state, said economy and inflation was his top concern. Douglas said he wasn’t concerned with climate change and thought instead that the American government should ease restrictions on oil drilling to focus on becoming energy independent.

“Democrats have had two years of nearly unopposed power, and what they’ve done is that they have kept inflation at a consistent 8%, which is completely unacceptable, and there needs to be some curb in that power,” Douglas said. 

Kirstan Josang, a 23-year-old dual elementary education and special education major at Boise State, said she leans conservative and described herself as pro-life, which was one of the topics at the front of her mind when voting. She was also concerned with the lack of funding for public schools, teachers and students. 

“On the ballot today there was something where the bill was presented as how surplus funds will be spent, they always throw in ‘we’ll use it for education,’ and a lot of times we don’t see that going into education,” Josang said.

Dani Alegria, a 20-year-old sophomore studying history, said she found voting to be a duty of American citizens. She said she cared about topics such as free speech, more funding for education, foreign policy, immigration and the economy. She identified as pro-life and felt that included supporting women after child birth, not just during pregnancy.

“I am registered as a Republican because I feel that it’s the lesser of two evils, and until our country gets rid of the two party system/implements ranked voting, I’m stuck with the GOP,” Alegria said. “A lot of republican politicians in Idaho lean too far right, and that’s difficult too. I think the average Idahoan wants a moderate to right-leaning government, not a far-right government, and definitely not a liberal government.”

Students who voted Democrat 

Lexus Thomas is a 21-year-old senior at Boise State majoring in biology with an emphasis in ecology, evolution and behavior. She voted in Washington by mail and cited her concern for upholding free and fair elections as a reason for voting, which she felt the secretary of state candidate she voted for would do.

Ballot box
[Photo of an Ada County ballot drop box.]
Claire Keener | The Arbiter

“Local elections are extremely important and the easiest way to have a direct impact on your community,” Thomas said. “I would probably consider myself a progressive. In my opinion, the Democratic party is the lesser of two evils. Both parties uphold systems of oppression and often fall short in terms of their service to the American people.”

Some issues Thomas said motivated her to go to the polls were women’s right to choose, voter’s rights and the environment.

Sayre Peterson, 22, is a junior computer science major at Boise State. He said his primary reason for voting was to vote against the far-right, specifically naming the College of Western Idaho board of trustees election. He said he wasn’t motivated by the Democratic Party’s positions.

“I know that the Democratic Party does not care about people like me, or my family. In fact, I blame the Democratic Party more than anything for the rise of the far right,” Peterson said. “As they have shown time and time again, they are completely unwilling to fight for anyone except their corporate donors. The Democratic party is completely out of touch with the working class American.”

Megan Wilmott, 22, is a senior civil engineering major. She said she cared about issues of environmental conservation, civil rights, clean water and bodily autonomy. Though she sees the Democratic Party as representing her values, Wilmott said she votes on the basis of the candidate’s values and history instead of party affiliation.

“I think it is super impactful to vote in midterm and off-year elections as well, which is a big reason I am voting today,” Wolmott said. “There are a few candidates this election I felt that I didn’t align with either, but voted for the lesser of two evils.”

Non-voting students 

A 22-year-old criminal justice major named Kelsey said she chose not to vote since she was from Washington and didn’t feel as educated on Idaho’s issues. 

Another out-of-state criminal justice major from Oregon, Logan Wagner, said he never spent the time to research the candidates and didn’t feel his vote should be counted since he wasn’t living in his home state or working in Idaho.

Freshman Max Mills, who is an undeclared major, didn’t register to vote because of a lack of interest.

“I don’t know how much my voice would be heard if I participated. I think of myself as just another person. How much am I going to affect any voting or any decisions that affect me?” Mills said.

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