Strong canvassing, young voters bring blue wave to Champaign County

A political science expert said because of strong canvassing, there was a big surge of student democrats voting. (WCCU)

This year’s midterm election was a tough one for Republicans in the state of Illinois, including in Champaign County. Political Science Professor and expert at the University of Illinois, Brian Gaines said because of strong canvassing, there was a big surge of student Democrats voting which carried them to a sweep of the county races.

“I had a to-do-list and one of them was to vote,” UI student voter of Illinois, Megan Lee said. “I voted because honestly I had been influenced by a lot of people in my life who were telling me, 'You should probably get out there and vote and exercise your right.’”

Hundreds of students at the U of I rushed to their polling place on campus Monday to cast their ballots.

“I voted because I thought it was time to finally see a congress that represents the student population,” UI student voter of Illinois, Himani Vyas said.

Every big ticket race in Champaign County turned blue.

“Voting is a civic duty and you're not going to make change if you don't,” UI student voter of Illinois, Ryan Estep said.

Gaines said the Democratic party in Champaign County had a very distinct strategy to get students to vote.

“It was a very impressive get out the vote mobilization effort,” Gaines said. “The Democratic party had a lot of very enthusiastic volunteers and frankly they had [JB Pritzker] with unlimited money who threw a lot of money to make sure they had a very strong organization from poll watchers to door canvassers, people handing out flyers.”

Records show in one precinct on the U of I campus, only 130 people voted in 2014. That number nearly tripled Tuesday night with 405 ballots cast.

“The pattern in the past is that if students do vote here, they vote for the federal races, the state-wide races and then they don't really have the interest to fall through for the county races,” Gaines said.

According to Gaines, this year, students were encouraged to vote in their local area rather than their home address. They were also urged to fill out the entire ballot.

“I did know a few of the [candidates] pretty well, others not so much -- more by party,” Lee said.

The blue wave in Champaign County also comes after former President Barack Obama visited the U of I in August, urging students to go out and vote.

“I did my research and I know it was a bit complicated because, like, there are certain sites that only give you, like, certain information. So I tried my best to look at two or three different sites for each candidate,” UI student voter of Illinois, Kasey Rodriguez said.

Gaines also said he would not call this year's young voter turnout record-breaking entirely, but instead, record-breaking for the last 20 years.

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