Dear young voters, it’s your future that is on the line! It’s tough—as a student, you’re balancing fifteen or more credits, working, and planning your life after graduation. It’s not always easy to make time to prepare for each election. However, it is an important task. In fact, voting is a civic duty. Young people are known for having strong voices when it comes to opinions on social and political issues, yet they are some of the hardest people to get to the voting polls. The choice is in the people’s hands on who will oversee their government and make major decisions for the population. Electorates in all branches of government make pertinent decisions which affect young people of America: minimum wage, taxes, college tuition, health care, human rights, and new jobs. These are important issues university students—Millennials—should be focused on and concerned with.
In the recent generation, statistics show that on average only half of citizens age 18-24 participate in elections, and voters of the same age make up 19% of the voter population. Additionally, many disregard America’s mid-term elections and focus primarily on the presidential elections. Why do young people have the lowest turnout when multiple decisions have a great impact on their lives?
To start, they may feel discouraged to vote because they think their vote does not matter. “I’m only one in a billion,” some might say. However, every vote is influential to some degree. Political candidates can win elections because of the influence and momentum of a certain voter group. President Barack Obama has proven just that in his two-term wins—he was the most popular candidate among young voters in 2008 and 2012. The idea is to not only cast your vote but to motivate your peers to take action as well—whoever they choose to vote for. In short, the overused phrase “every vote counts” rings true for America’s current presidential election.
In the same light, casting a ballot is effortless once you get to the polls, but the regulations and steps to get there might intimidate first-time voters. Young people often feel overwhelmed by the election because of the voting registration process and gossipy news bites, but the most important part is to register. You can register to vote by searching online with keywords such as “register to vote in [enter your state].” Your state’s official website has information and guidelines on how to get registered as quickly as possible, so there’s no excuse not to. Do you need to know your registration status, polling location, or what to bring with you? Check out Rock the Vote’s website for direct links to each state’s official rules for voting.
Another reason the younger generations hesitate to vote is because they feel or think they simply do not know enough. You already have an opinion on some of the issues the candidates are debating. Do your research and see which politician’s platform matches with your beliefs. As we mentioned before college tuition and health care are two issues affecting young people, but the Council on Foreign Relations gives an impeccable comparison based on the current presidential candidates’ stance on pressing foreign policy issues: defense, energy and climate, immigration, and trade. A little extra research can go a long way.
“I’ve often encountered young people who say that the reason they don’t think they personally should vote is they’re not well-informed, and they take that as kind of a moral position that they’re not really qualified to vote,” said Peter Levine, director of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
To conclude, you have an opinion and a voice to be heard. If you’ve already missed the deadline for registering to vote or submitting an absentee ballot that’s okay. You have six more days to make a change in your family and community. Spread the word and assist in the election process—after you do some research. With that being said young voters do not have an excuse to not take part on Election Day at any level. Remember, it’s your civic duty. It affects your life and your country in different ways for the next four years, so make it count!
By Victoria James | Feature Photo by Tobias Zils