18-Year-Olds Told Us Why They’ll Be Voting In The Midterm Elections

Anxiety over the possibility of a school shooting consumed Berlyn Schelling until she transferred from a public high school to an online school. Now graduated, 18 years old, and able to vote for the first time in her home state of Montana, Schelling is voting for gun control.

The teen, who works as a barista, has made her voice heard in the past by participating in Black Lives Matter and pro–abortion rights protests, as well as donating to political organizations. But now, she’s excited to vote for candidates who she believes share her views in the midterm elections.

“It’s hard to focus on the rest of the day when you have to think about how someone can come in [to school] and kill me and my classmates right now,” she said.

Teens who are now old enough to vote for the first time on Nov. 8 were just 12 years old when Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Since then, they’ve seen massive protests over police brutality, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republicans targeting trans youth, and an insurrection at the Capitol. Now 18 and registered to vote, they see abortion access, LGBTQ rights, and immigration as not just issues on which to make their voices heard, but as matters their lives depend on.

Peyton Jackson, a high school senior in Illinois who turned 18 last month, has been closely watching the state’s race for governor. Republican nominee Darren Bailey is behind Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker — but not nearly as much as she’d like. Jackson said Bailey has “abhorrent” views, like his anti-abortion stance.