Last year, I took a writing course in the political science department and wrote my term paper on factors that impact voter turnout rates in America. Overwhelmingly, young people just do not go to the polls.
As you would expect, there are a lot of things that contribute to low voter turnout numbers among youth. This is especially true depending on what kind of election is happening, as the numbers are better when a president is up for election than there are in midterms.
One of the biggest factors I found in my research is simply the fact that young people tend to be more mobile than older generations. Once you settle down it’s easy to register to vote and simply stay registered; meanwhile, young people are still figuring their lives out and that often means moving every few years with the jobs.
Another huge barrier is how difficult it is to register. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it can be confusing to first-time voters. Personally, I wish our system automatically registered a person once they turn 18.
Regardless, this past midterm election, in 2018, recorded better numbers than the 2014 election. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, turnout rates among those 18-29 years old jumped from 20% to 36%, nearly double.
It’s an encouraging statistic, because it is more important than ever for young people to get involved with politics. With the echo chambers that are created by the ability to block the opposing opinion on social media, the best possible way to make your voice heard is still to vote.
It can be easy to get discouraged and feel like your vote doesn’t matter. After all, our election system leaves the possibility for the candidate who loses the popular vote to still win the presidency thanks to the electoral college. It happened in 2016, and has happened in the past as well.
However, even despite this, the electoral college bases its votes on which candidate wins each particular state. So it is still important to participate in the process in the hopes that enough people in your state agree with you for your candidate to win.
Not everyone in the world has the ability to elect their government, and that provides a certain level of accountability for politicians who don’t want to lose their positions. Not voting is doing a disservice to not just yourself, but everyone else in the country.
While everyone has the right to choose whether to vote or not, I urge all students at East Carolina University to register, whether here or at home. By exercising this right, you can help create the society you want to live in post-graduation.