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Too Young to Vote, But Not Too Young to Influence

Meg Lantz

With the Illinois primary now less than two weeks away, more presidential hopefuls will be campaigning in the state, especially with the stakes being so high. While voter turnout in primaries tends to be lower than the general election, young voters are showing extreme interest in this campaign.

Even young people who are still a few years from being old enough to cast their first ballots. WGLT's Jon Norton spoke with Terri Lantz of Bloomington, and her 16-year old daughter Bridget, who says her political leanings are shaped in part by the type of music she enjoys.

"I listen to a lot of punk music, and punk bands can be very political.  My favorite band is Green Day, I think everyone knows that.  They came out with their album "American Idiot" I think that's a very political album.  It kind of gave me some input on politics.

Bridget says Sanders appeals to many millennials because they've seen friends and relatives who have lost jobs and homes, and don't have a lot of money in general.  She also says Sanders' critique of the seemingly endless U.S. wars and the high cost of college also resonate with young Americans.

Terri says political awareness was instilled into her at an extremely young age. 

"I was actually born on election day in 1964.  My mother went into labor early that morning, and my father wouldn't take her to the hospital until she went to vote.  (laughing) That's the way I was raised.

Terri says she and her husband Doug passed that political awareness onto their three daughters. She says whenever she would vote, her daughters would be in tow. And when John Edwards made a Bloomington/Normal visit during the 2008 Presidential campaign, she took the kids to the airport to watch the plane land.  She and Doug also took the girls to Springfield in 2007 when Barack Obama announced his intent to run for President.  

Even though she's still 2 years away from voting, Bridget says she has been studying the candidates in both parties and watching most of the Republican and Democratic debates.  She says she feels so strongly about Bernie Sanders that she has been lobbying the adults in her family, including relatives in other states.  And Terri says Bridget has been very influential.

"I had been following Hillary.  She (Bridget) did open my eyes to Mr. Sanders a little more.  And I started to review him and listen to him a little more and read some more things about him.  I can honestly say that's who I'm looking at for the primaries."

Jon Norton is the audio director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.