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What’s driving young voters to the polls in Virginia?

In Virginia, our Student Reporting Lab from Dominion High School spoke to Senate candidates Republican Corey Stewart and incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine about some of the hottest issues: immigration and gun control.

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  • MORGAN FISCHER, CORRESPONDENT:

    In the final weeks of the Virginia senate race, Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine and Republican candidate Corey Stewart are crisscrossing the commonwealth to connect with voters.

  • ZUHAYR AHMED, KAINE SUPPORTER:

    "I support Tim Kaine wholeheartedly, I support him because I believe that he represents all Virginians.

  • KARA KLINE, KAINE SUPPORTER:

    "With women's rights or education or immigration reform, he's just done so much to help."

  • WILL LUELF, STEWART SUPPORTER:

    The reason I want to vote for Corey Stewart is I like his stance-for example, like affirmative action, getting rid of that in regards to college acceptance, and I like his stance on the Second Amendment.

  • MARIA TORRES, STEWART SUPPORTER:

    We need someone who will support our president.

  • FISCHER:

    The candidates faced off in a combative debate at the end of September.

  • STEWART:

    Is Senator Kaine on that list?

  • KAINE:

    -This is like Joe McCarthy

  • STEWART:

    Is Senator Blumenthal on that list?

  • MODERATOR:

    -Wait, wait a second

  • FISCHER:

    We sat down with each candidate separately and talked about two key issues that separate the candidates: immigration and gun violence.

  • FISCHER:

    There have been a multitude of shootings in schools recently, what is your position on assault rifles?

  • COREY STEWART, REPUBLICAN:

    We have hundreds of millions of firearms across the United States, you know that's never going to change. The only practical way that we can stop these mass shootings in schools and other locations is to provide better protection for our students.

  • FISCHER:

    You were the governor of Virginia during the Virginia Tech school shooting and Virginia is also home to the NRA. What do you think should be done to prevent these school shootings?

  • TIM KAINE, DEMOCRAT:

    The most important single thing we could do is to have a national background check system that really worked and and and you need to keep weapons out of the hands of those who are too dangerous to have them.

  • FISCHER:

    You have said that you oppose the Dreamer and DACA programs. What are your policies when it comes to these programs?

  • STEWART:

    I believe in enforcing our nation's immigration laws. We need to build the border wall and we need to remove criminal illegal aliens, those who are committing crimes, we need to focus in on that element.

  • KAINE:

    Young people really believe in the need for immigration reform. They understand that new Americans are and always have been, a really important part of who we are as a country.

  • STEWART:

    Both candidates hope young people turn out to vote in greater numbers than in previous midterm elections. I I think it's important that young people get out there. There's a whole new young generation of, from my perspective, a lot of new young conservatives that are coming up through the ranks.

  • FISCHER:

    So what issues do young voters say are important to them and how has this affected your campaign?

  • KAINE:

    Equality. They deeply believe in the equality of every person, that it shouldn't matter what religion you practice, the accent you have, the shade your skin, who you love, whether your parents have college degrees, you're not worried on what part of the state you live in.

    From talking to young people on both sides of the political spectrum, it's clear certain issues are driving their votes.

  • KARA KLINE, KAINE SUPPORTER:

    One of the most important is women's rights and like access to health care for women it's super important that for me that women have control of their own bodies.

  • MARIA TORRES, STEWART SUPPORTER:

    I can't go for someone who's not pro-life according to my beliefs.

  • ZUHAYR AHMED, KAINE SUPPORTER:

    The number one issue that I care about is the environment. There's the latest UN report that says, you know, we're going to start seeing the most devastating effects in a couple decades now.

  • WILL LUELF, STEWART SUPPORTER:

    In regards to tax reform, I'll have to be paying off student loan debt after I finish college, so the more money that I get out of my paycheck afterwards will go towards that.

  • FISCHER:

    According to the Federal Census Bureau, in the previous midterm elections in 2014, 43% of 18-24-year-olds in Virginia registered but only 15% actually voted.

    Rally attendees explain why some of their peers don't vote.

  • KITTY FIELDS, STEWART SUPPORTER:

    It's the political scene, it's kind of ugly, and there's so much controversy and people just don't want to get involved they'd rather just check out and stay neutral.

  • ZUHAYR AHMED, KAINE SUPPORTER:

    I think young people tend to be very cynical about the system. They don't think that their vote matters. I firmly believe that you know, if you want change and you want to see change, you've got to be the change.

  • FISCHER:

    For the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, I'm Morgan Fischer.

    This story was written and produced by Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, and Karen Ramos at Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia. Instruction provided by Student Reporting Labs Connected Educator Mitch Schwartz. Mentorship provided by Kristy Choi, Briget Ganske and Rawan Elbaba at the PBS NewsHour.

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