Young Minnesota voters engage in midterms over abortion access

High school juniors Sophie Jorgensen and Amra Kelly aren't old enough to vote on Tuesday, but they're doing everything they can to make sure their eligible friends in Minneapolis are getting to the polls.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, they organized text banking parties and hosted an abortion rights-themed Jeopardy event. They put up posters at their high school and helped register people to vote at Minneapolis farmers' markets.

"We have friends that are over 18 that are voting out of fear that we're going to go in the wrong direction," said Jorgensen. "That we're going to start limiting rights for LGBTQIA or other things that are really important to their identity."

Turnout among young voters is always a challenge for political parties, especially in midterm elections with no presidential race at the top of the ticket. But abortion rights groups say they've seen an organic uptick in organizing in high schools and on college campuses since the reversal of Roe.

TL Jordan, who oversees youth organizing for Planned Parenthood in the region, said they have 13 affiliated chapters at high schools and colleges around Minnesota this year. Two were started this summer by high school students, and Jordan is still getting emails from students who want to get involved.

In a September Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota poll, 62% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 said they opposed the Supreme Court's decision, higher than any other age group. Roughly 68% of voters in that age group said abortions should be legal in most or all cases.

But an October poll sponsored by MinnPost found only 48% of voters in that age range felt "extremely motivated" to vote.

Fourth-year Winona State University student Jessica Weis said some on campus didn't realize Roe was at risk of going away.

Since this summer, she said there's been more student interest in the group she co-founded, Students for Reproductive Justice. They've helped register students to vote and are storming dorms to get them to vote. They're also trying to get more access to Plan B and medication abortion on campus.

"It's something that was set in stone and is now removed. It's shocking," she said. "We're pretty lucky to live in Minnesota where our rights are somewhat protected, but there's a long way to go."

Jorgensen said she's seen a slight drop in interest in the issue since this summer, but the reversal of Roe could be part of their reality for many years. They take a long view with their organizing goals.

"Our generation as a whole, we're pretty politically active," said Kelly, who started Southwest Activists for Change with Jorgensen. "We're willing to go out and do what it takes to create change."