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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Mean Faces and Voice of Georgia’s Young Voters

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Candidates are the mean faces and voice of the state’s youth.

When school let out in August, students — 15 to 19 years old — circled around the TVs of teachers and state senators at their day jobs. And when the election was called Tuesday night, the movie screening had been moved into the gym and the students treated to a victory party at Diggins Hall.

“Georgia now enters a new era of brighter possibilities,” announced Corey Kisor, a sophomore at Howard University, outside the event.

While the election winner may speak of a renewed youth voice in government, many of these students are on track to participate in the law of diminishing returns: As American adults, these are the people who will turn out to vote the least, and they’ll have the least confidence in their state’s politicians.

“I’m a new voter,” said Sasha Khatchadourian, 19, a senior at Georgia Southern University. “It’s much harder than I thought it would be, but I’m looking forward to it because it’s so important.”

When the general election kicks off on Nov. 6, the youngest member of the state’s legislative delegation, 21-year-old Virgil Goode, will sit in the Peach State House of Representatives. And the youngest executive in Georgia government, Rebekah Tiler, was appointed to her role as commissioner of the Department of Community Health, also at 21. But for many of Georgia’s young voters, the biggest change they see coming from this election is that perhaps, with the exception of a few libertarian candidates, the state’s representatives and senators will make decisions based on the interests of a younger generation.

Many said the state’s politics were in a state of transition. Their conversations framed health care, college affordability, and racial diversity — which underrepresented voters, especially minorities, had until recently been stymied by governors who came from older political generations.

“The legislators and other politicians need to stop thinking about us as whether we can afford college or not — that’s how we ended up here today,” said Cameron Wright, a student at Georgia Southern University.

More than a few students, who say they’ve been demanding change from their leaders for years, said young voters deserve to take more of a role in election process.

“We’re strong enough to get stuff done,” said Tanner Baxter, a sophomore at the University of Georgia. “We just have to be heard.”

When the state’s future leaders take office, they’ll find opportunities for generational change. Their most senior opponent in the Senate race, 32-year-old Karinia Geren, will represent the state’s fastest-growing district.

In the House, the state’s youngest member, Tim Scott, will be joining the eighth-longest tenured member of the House at 38. And Kay Granger, the 67-year-old representative for the 12th district of Southwestern Texas, will soon be the oldest member of the state’s House delegation.

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