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State Secretary of State report shows gaps in youth voter participation

Jodi Westrick
/
Michigan Public

A report released this week by the Michigan Secretary of State’s office found Michigan has serious gaps in youth voter participation.

Based on proprietary voter info, the report said 59.2% of Michiganders aged 18-29 did not vote in 2022. Among Michiganders in that age range, 38.3% didn’t vote in 2020.

In 2022, Michigan led the nation in youth voter turnout in the 18-29 age group, but the Secretary of State’s office says it’s working to address gaps between registration and turnout.

The counties with the largest gap between active registration and participation were overwhelmingly in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, according to the report. Of the 10 counties with the highest youth participation gaps, seven were in northern Michigan or the UP.

  • Luce (75.6%),
  • Lake (75.6%), 
  • Oscoda (74.8%), 
  • Menominee (74.7%),
  • Iron (74.3%) 
  • Branch (73.1%),
  • Gogebic (72.9%), 
  • Cass (72.3%). 
  • Ogemaw (72%), 
  • St. Joseph (71.4%) 


“There's oftentimes a gap between information being provided and then actually reaching citizens in those areas,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. “Early voting is helpful, but not as helpful as it might be for citizens downstate who are in more concentrated areas and have easier access to those early voting centers.”

Benson pointed to absentee voting by mail as a tool to increase voter outreach in those areas. “That's a new option that's in place this year that young people in more rural parts of the state can take advantage of,” she said.

Benson also said that non-college-educated voters make up a significant portion of that gap. “Almost 60% of eligible Michigan voters or citizens aged 18 to 29 didn't participate. The vast majority, over 75% of those folks, were young voters with no college experience,” Benson said of 2022 voting data. “We want to find ways to educate and reach those citizens with helpful information about our elections.”

And Benson pointed out that many young voters cite crammed schedules as a reason they don’t vote. "If they vote during the early voting period, at an early voting center in the weeks leading up to the traditional election day, that may give them more opportunities to participate in a way that fits with their schedule than they might have had in past years."

The report also listed nonpartisan communication efforts on social media, at workplaces, and in schools as solutions to increase youth turnout. In addition, partnerships with military recruiters and increasing the number of high schoolers with IDs and licenses were suggested efforts.

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