Power of the youth vote is key

Jacob Ringelstetter, Staff Writer

Young people comprise a huge portion of the eligible voting population, yet the number of young people who show up to the polls on election day has dwindled since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 by President Nixon in 1971.

As the population grows, the youngest of voters will continue to comprise the largest demographic of voters, and history shows that securing a large portion of the youth vote is critical to a candidate’s success.

Barack Obama’s first presidential election is an example of this. In 2008, the percentage of voters, ages 18 to 24, jumped to its highest level of turnout (45 percent) since 1971. Of youth population that voted, Obama won 67 percent.

President Obama was one of the few candidates who have been able to excite young people to get them to the polls in a way that hadn’t been seen in years. Despite this small surge in young voters for Obama, in more recent elections, more than half of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 choose not to vote.

Why is it that so few young people go to the polls to perform what may be their most important civic duty? According to some Madison College students, there are good reasons — and a lot of bad ones – that hold young people back.

At the college’s Trustyle Salon, a couple of students recently elaborated on some of those reasons. One student, who asked not be named, said that she would feel tentative to vote because there isn’t a candidate who appeals to her, and that she doesn’t seem to care about this election compared to previous ones.

To avoid voting because one feels they are only voting for the lesser of two evils is a fairly common attitude among young people. The argument that she just doesn’t care about the election is another reason why many students do not vote.

Another student at the salon said she doesn’t feel informed or educated enough to make a decision, based on her age, background and education. Some young voters simply don’t take the time needed to get informed.

In 1971, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 because young people argued that if they were mature enough to pay taxes, get married and be drafted, then they should be mature enough to vote.

With the rise in social media, smartphones and other mobile devices, it is easier than ever to find out what candidates you will find on your ballot, what issues they support or oppose and whether or not you are registered to vote on Election Day.

One quick and easy way to learn about the candidates is to visit www.ISideWith.com. You also can take a quiz to learn about where you stand on certain issues. At www.CanIVote.org you can find out whether or not you are registered to vote as well as your polling place location.

Hank Green, an entrepreneur, YouTube content creator and brother of author John Green encourages young people to vote in his video, Ten Terrible Reasons Not to Vote. In this video, Green expresses his frustration with excuses he hears on why so many young people choose to abstain from voting.

“The notion that your vote won’t matter because it probably won’t be the individual deciding vote in a particular election is a magnificent failure of imagination,” Green said. “If every young person who used this excuse got off their butt and voted once every two years, they would literally be the deciding voice in thousands of elections.”

This voice is important, because young people tend to be the more measured and moderate voters, having less experience and ties to a particular party or ideology. Younger voters also come from a more diverse background.

What for a long time was the largest American demographic, the baby boomers, is now being surpassed by a larger and more diverse millennial generation. There are 76 million baby boomers and 72 percent of them are white. There are 87 million millennials and 56 percent of them are white. Socioeconomic classes also are not represented by most election results because about 99 percent of millionaires vote, and for this reason disproportionately affect the outcome of elections.

If you want to make a change in American politics to elect officials who are more representative of the beliefs the whole population, the only way to do that is to vote. As Hank Green so blatantly puts it, “If you aren’t voting, no one is hearing your voice. So they have no reason to represent you.”