Voting is one of the most important civic opportunities given to United States citizens. Yet many Americans today do not take advantage of this crucial right.
Young adults in particular stand out for their low levels of participation in the electoral process. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, young voters between the ages of 18 through 29 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups. As a young person myself, I feel disheartened by this trend.
This lack of participation can be attributed to many possible factors. Lots of young people are simply uniformed or intimidated by politics and all things related to government. Others are influenced by the “it doesn’t affect me syndrome.” They believe public policy issues do not affect their everyday lives, and they don’t see how government officials can change their communities. Some say they are “too busy”, and there’s always those who simply do not believe voting makes a difference.
The problem is that by not voting, we are leaving our power and voice in the hands of others. Voting allows us to choose our leaders and have a voice in what laws are made and what policies are adopted. These issues certainly affect our lives as individuals, whether it is our lives as students, employees and citizens, or the lives of other people we love and care for. While there might be youths saying, “My one vote doesn’t count,” there are millions of others thinking the same thing, and that makes a difference.
For decades, political activists and campaigns have targeted young adults to get out and vote. Political strategists, like researchers atGeorge Washington University, have found that knocking on their doors and giving these young voters a call have the greatest impact in turning out the youth vote. Non-profits such as Rock the Vote, YSA andKids Voting USA mobilize and teach youths about the importance of voting. Even celebrities like P. Diddy have tried engaging young adults to vote through a campaign called Vote or Die.
The most successful campaigns to mobilize and earn the youth vote have been the 2008 and 2012 Democratic presidential campaigns. TheObama campaign made youth outreach a priority, from the primaries through Election Day. President Obama spoke at many college campuses and targeted his messaging to the issues young people wanted to hear about. His campaign made sure to use social media to keep them informed and engaged. As a result, Obama garnered 55 percent of the youth vote in 2008 and 45 percent in 2012.
Midterm and statewide elections draw fewer voters to the polls than presidential elections do – the issues seem less important, the candidates seem smaller. But these elections, and the election on Tuesday, are arguably more important than national general elections. You are much more likely to meet your local officials than the president. Your assemblypeople live in and represent the same district as you do. They personally know the issues in your community and are better able to represent you in the State Legislature.
That’s why it’s important that despite our tendency to make excuses and not go to the polls, we speak up on Election Day and get out and vote. It’s your right as a citizen – exercise your power!