I didn’t vote in last year’s midterm election, but I should have. The ballot was pinned to my bulletin board for at least a month but somehow never got touched.
Those who are under the age of 30 make up one-fourth of the total voting power in this country. This year I challenge everyone in this group, including myself, to make a commitment to vote.
The most recent and overarching data on millennial voting patterns comes from an organization called CIRCLE, or the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. They reported that “Voter turnout among young American citizens age 18 to 29 in the 2010 Midterm Election was 24.0 percent.”
To increase voter participation, it’s important to look at the patterns and causes behind the trend.
Michael Winerip reported for the New York Times in 2012 that when the baby boomer generation was the age millennials are today, they voted at surprisingly similar rates. They were facing huge issues and “many incentives to go to the polls, including the Vietnam-era draft” but somehow, they still voted at a rate of 50 percent.
In the same article, developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Connie Flanagan discussed some reasons this age group votes less, such as a busy and chaotic lifestyle.
Flanagan explained that “As you get older, there is more of a steady rhythm to your life,” which helps voting become a part of normal routine. I certainly identify with this factor, as I had every intention to make my ballot count.
There are many resources for students and young people like myself who are looking for more help with voting.
Ideally I think that voting should be a topic addressed in every high school so that young people have an idea of how it works and where to go to learn about what they are voting on. This is not currently the case, however, so some local organizations can help.
The Secretary of State website has information about important dates and voter registration, but not much detail about what initiatives and referendums are or what they mean. Local newspapers such as the Stranger and the Seattle Times elaborate on details of platforms and the impact local measures will have.
This is 2016, so of course there are a variety of handy apps that will help tech hungry voters educate themselves and stay up to date. A list from appadvice.com recommends Newsfusion, All Politics, 270toWin, Voter and FrontRunner.
Right here on the BC campus, the Office of Student Legislative Affairs, located in C212, is a great resource. They help students register to vote and are “dedicated to both keeping students aware and civilly involved, as well as keeping the legislators aware of our needs.” They are available to help students engage politically.
We are so lucky to live in a place in which we can participate and have a voice in the election of our leaders. The work of great leaders have secured us the right to vote, and I believe the best way to honor their sacrifices is to take advantage of the rights they fought for.
That being said, watching our current political system in action makes our own impact seem as though it will be ineffective. So much of the coverage of politics focuses on dramatic insults from one side to the other, rather than focusing on the well-being of our country as a whole.
One thing that does give me hope, though, is that what young people care about politically are issues such as equality, climate change and gay marriage, according to Dave Tierney reporting for the Atlantic on recent studies by Harstad Strategic Research and the Pew Research Center.
These issues focus on treating everyone as human beings and on finding new and nondestructive ways to coexist.
Regardless of how one votes, it’s better to participate in the process than to protest by inaction. If everyone with a vision for a better system gives their input, this next generation will be able to choose representatives that will make that vision a reality.