Local party leaders plead for more young adult participation

In the United States, there are two primary political parties: Republicans and Democrats. Photo credit: Unsplash

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 27% of youth (ages 18-29) cast a ballot in 2022, the second-highest level in decades.

In addition to increased levels of voter turnout, more young people are running for office. Floridians elected 26-year-old Maxwell Frost to the House of Representatives in 2022. However, this trend of political involvement nationwide among young adults doesn’t always trickle down to the local level.

The two main political party groups in Madison County are the Madison County Democrats and the Madison County Republican Women’s Club. While there is a Madison County Republicans group, they are not super active in the community.

Each of these groups will hold fundraisers and meet-and-greets for candidates around election season. The Republican Women will also hold debates and banquets on occasion.

Those politically active in the Rexburg community expressed the necessity of youth participation in local politics and the unique insights they bring.

“The political world is hungry for energy all the time,” said Ron Nate, former Idaho state representative and senior policy fellow for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “It’s amazing how quickly you move up the political chain because that energy and that leadership is rewarded rather quickly because we always need new and strong leaders.”

Dawn Anderson, a member of the Madison County Democrats, said young people have a powerful voice in politics, especially when they speak up and speak out about progressive issues.

“The problem in this has always been the problem with the Democrats in Idaho, is the ones that are committed enough to actually get involved are all older,” Anderson said. “Far more young people do understand the direction the country and the culture are going. That’s another reason we need role models. We need young people who are role models in politics, on both sides.”

Nate said college campuses serve as a training ground for formulating your political ideas and political identity.

While BYU-Idaho upholds the value of political neutrality, several other groups exist for students across the political spectrum to join. Nate said these groups provide students with leadership opportunities and can pave a path forward toward a political future.

Hurdles to involvement

Local Republicans and Democrats all cited the same reason people don’t get involved: It takes time.

“With lots of other things going on in their life, it might be hard to figure out how to do it and have the energy and time to do it,” Nate said.

“People are so dang busy with their church callings and their full-time jobs and their families that they’re like I can’t take on one more thing,” Anderson said. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Oh, I’d love to be involved. I can’t take on one more thing.’ I believe that when they say that, because I feel that a lot of the time too.”

Democrats face an additional struggle since they are the minority,

“So many people think there are no Democrats in the county,” said Marsha Craner, the county chair for the Madison County Democrats. “People need to know that they have a community and that they have a voice. Even if we don’t have candidates locally, people need to know there are people like me.”

Increasing involvement

Anderson proposed a solution to help people get involved despite the hurdles they might face.

“How do you get people involved when they’re afraid or when they’re busy?” Anderson said. “You do it the old-fashioned way. You just have to use elbow grease. You have to go out and you talk to people and you get people talking to each other. You get them caring.”

At the links listed you can find more information on political groups in the Rexburg area such as when meetings and events will be held:

Madison County Democrats

Madison County Republican Women

Progressive Student Society, a group for liberal students

Young America’s foundation, a group for conservative students

Turning Point USA, a group for conservative students