By Rep. Dusty Johnson
This past Wednesday, I hosted a telephone town hall with constituents 35 and under.
Now some of you may be thinking, Dusty, why would you host a town hall exclusive to younger folks?
I’m most effective at my job when I’m talking to my bosses, and my bosses are the voters. Knowing what’s important to younger people in South Dakota is just as crucial as knowing what our seniors care about.
According to a report by Tufts University, South Dakota’s youth voter turnout was the lowest in the Midwest and the lowest of the 40 states they had collected data from. I believe it is important to get younger folks engaged in politics, no matter their political affiliation. Politically active young people make for more informed citizens – the more individuals that actively participate in their civic duty will enrich our nation.
Over 3,400 constituents joined the call on Wednesday. Hundreds of South Dakotans got in the queue to ask a question, and within the hour I was able to take nearly 30 questions on topics ranging from border security and national debt to legalizing marijuana and student loans. We also discussed rising inflation, climate change, and mental health. I was excited to witness a high level of enthusiasm and engagement on a variety of issues.
When asked “what should the federal government tackle?” the top three responses were the border crisis, the job market, and health care.
These data points allow me to direct my attention to the issues South Dakotans care about most. I’ve supported various bills to combat the border crisis, including the Remain in Mexico policy. To bring down health care costs, I helped introduce the Lower Costs More Cures Act and to incentivize work, I introduced the Get Americans Back to Work Act. I will continue to prioritize these issues while working in Congress.
Over the last few years, I have hosted more than 50 town halls—in person, drive-thru, and via telephone. Tele-town halls have allowed me to continue engaging with South Dakotans while I’m in D.C. and especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
I truly enjoyed hearing from South Dakotas up and coming leaders on Wednesday and I look forward to more town halls in the future.