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2020 could be one of the most consequential and unusual elections in American history. And now the time has come to cast a ballot, but how? And when? Boise State Public Radio is here to bring you the latest news and information you need to cast your vote in Idaho.

Election 2020: Will New, Young Voters Be The Deciding Factor?

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With so many polls and analyses flooding social media in the days leading up to the 2020 election, two major questions remain unanswered: No. 1, How many new voters will cast their first ballot this year? and No. 2, How many young voters will participate?

In spite of tight pandemic-driven restrictions on Idaho college campuses, there have been robust efforts to engage more new voters this semester. Cheyon Sheen, Government Relations Officers for Associated Students at Boise State University and Amber Schneider, Program Coordinator at the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the University of Idaho visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about those efforts, and their own plans to watch this year's election returns.

“We are going to try the best we can, because there is a lot of just stress. And so, we're just going to try and be there for each other.”

Read the full transscript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice.

We are now, well, just hours away from Election Day 2020; and while there have been many polls and analyses, two big questions remain: No. 1, How many new voters will cast a ballot this year? And No. 2, How many young voters will participate in this year's election? So, we're going to talk a bit about that this morning with Cheyon Sheen. She is Government Relations Officer for the Associated Students of Boise State University. And joining us from Moscow is Amber Schneider. She is Program Coordinator at the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the University of Idaho. Good morning to you both.

Could you each give me a sense of engagement among students on your respective campuses, Amber? Tell me about the U of I.

AMBER SCHNEIDER: Yeah, absolutely. George. So, we've been hosting quite a few in-person and online events so far this semester. We've logged over 500 hours of tabling: educating students about the election and getting them registered and requesting absentee ballots. But essentially our students seem fairly engaged with this election. I don't think you can go on your phone or talk to another student on campus without potentially bringing up the election at this point.

PRENTICE: Cheyon, tell me about Boise State.

CHEYON SHEEN: Yeah, a lot of students at Boise State University are also really engaged, and I believe more than any others, like Amber said, you can't go on your phone or your computer without seeing something about the election. And in Ada County, we've seen over 6,000 new young voters in the ages of 18 to 29. And so, this is huge. And a lot of them, the majority of them, have registered through an online application. So, we're seeing technology play a huge part in this. And so there has been a lot of social media engagement using our hashtag #BroncosVote from all different kinds of students, faculty and staff.

PRENTICE: Cheyon, could you give us a sense of what issues are resonating with young voters at Boise State?

SHEEN: I think there are a lot of things right now, especially in Idaho. I think higher ed is definitely one of those issues. Especially, if your university doesn't have any money, then it's hard to participate [with a lack of] good resources. I participated, along with the U of I, CWI, CSI and the College of Idaho to create a legislative report card that focuses on which legislators supported bills that directly affect higher education in Idaho.

PRENTICE: Amber, what are the hot issues at the U of I?

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Credit Amber Schneider
Amber Schneider

SCHNEIDER: I would definitely agree with Cheyon on the higher education impact. As Cheyon mentioned, she worked with the University of Idaho and our Associated Students of the University of Idaho, which is our student government, to help publish that document, which is also on our website. So, higher education is absolutely a key concern… and the funding for that, especially as we're working through this pandemic.  What does that look like? And how does that impact the resources of our university? I would say on a larger level, I think students are pretty concerned about the economy, especially our graduating seniors and our rising seniors, wondering about whether they're going to have jobs available. What is the job market going to look like when they graduate?  Environmental protections are a big issue for students here on our campus. We've got a very large College of Natural Resources here. So, I think a lot of our students are concerned about policies regarding the environment. I would also say Human Rights are also a concern of many of our students, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining a lot of speed this summer and into this semester. Students are concerned for their safety. And we've heard that, as we're going into Election Day tomorrow. Will they be safe voting at the polls? Will they feel safe after the election results come out? And I think on a more local level for us, in our county and in the state of Idaho, a big hot topic for our students is government control and government mandates, with the mask mandates, social distancing and things like that. That's been talked about here on campus, with students either being for mandates or being against mandates. So, those are pretty interesting to have conversations about.

PRENTICE: Amber, may I ask, what are your plans to listen and watch the returns tomorrow night?

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Credit Cheyon Sheen
Cheyon Sheen

SHEEN: Absolutely. We are doing an election watch party on campus. We have a large space reserved here at the University of Idaho for students to come and watch in person, if they'd like to do that. I will most likely be at the polls until they're closing. We do have a polling location on campus - our student recreation center. So, I will mostly be checking in on my phone. We're encouraging students to watch the results from their home. We’re doing giveaways via social media and through our online platforms. Essentially, I would say, it’s just safer at this point for students to engage from their homes. However, we do want to offer the in-person engagement, in case students want to have a community around them while they're watching the results come in.

PRENTICE: Cheyon, what are your election night plans?

SHEEN: My personal Election Night plans are to stay at home with my roommate and cook up some nice dinner and relax and watch the results come in.

PRENTICE: Are you able to relax and watch those returns?

SHEEN: We are going to try the best we can, because there is a lot of just stress. And so, we're just going to try and be there for each other. I guess maybe I overexaggerated there if I said “relax.”

PRENTICE: No, I think that's wishful thinking. I think we should take that cue. So good luck with that. I think that's a really good idea. And food sounds like an even better idea. So she is Cheyon Sheen at Boise State University and Amber Schneider is at the University of Idaho. Thank you to you both. Thank you for your efforts over the past  months and weeks and days. And here we go. Election Day is knocking on the door. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SCHNEIDER AND SHEEN: Thank you so much, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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