The Young Professionals Advisory Council and Forward Montana hosted a city candidate forum directed toward young people.
In 2018, young voters in Montana showed up to the polls in higher numbers than any other state.
This year, civic engagement advocacy groups would like to see just as much voter enthusiasm, but on a local level.
“In any election, I think local elections should be your primary focus because those are the ones that are going to impact your day to day life,” said Emma Bode, Bozeman field manager at Forward Montana.
Typically, turnout for off-year elections is low — which is why civic engagement advocacy groups are working extra hard to get the message out that local elections matter.
“If you want to impact things like how much tuition is and what the transportation system looks like in Bozeman, how affordable your home is, this is really what to plug into and really make sure you’re voting in,” said Bode.
The candidate forum featured city commission candidates and a discussion about the ballot initiatives.
Discussion focused around issues most important to young people, including climate change, the environment, affordable housing and social and economic justice.
“I think you want engagement at every level, and that was a hole that we saw,” said Deputy Mayor Chris Mehl.
“We wanted to reach out to them and say you’re welcome, we’re glad you’re here, and frankly those are also the future leaders.”
“I think that a lot of people have an assumption that young people don’t care. And that’s not true,” said Bode.
“Young people are very passionate.”