The Youth Vote Matters

By Rebecca Connolly

It’s been a long year of presidential campaigning. As both major party candidates make efforts to reach millennials by interviewing with social media blogs, appearing on  SNL, and taking to Twitter, voters ages 18-24 continue to vote at the lowest rate compared to other age groups. According to the Census Bureau, only 38% of us cast votes in 2012, compared to 63% of of voters ages 45-64.

As made evident by the last two presidential debates, this election will have a lasting impact not only on issues that immediately affect our lives as millennials in our early 20s, like campus sexual assault and student loan policy, but will affect us for years to come, through issues like climate change, national security, the economy and labor laws, gun control, health care, civil rights and a variety of social issues. By showing up to the polls on November 8th, you can demonstrate to your elected officials that you care about these issues and are demanding to be heard as a demographic. By increasing voter turnout among young people, we can pressure our politicians to be more responsive to our political concerns.

Your vote, however, is not just a display of civic engagement and policy preference; it could be the deciding factor in the election. In February 2016, CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) released their Youth Electoral Significance Index, a statistical model which ranks districts where young people have the highest possibility to critically influence electoral outcomes. The influence of young voters described in the YESI was demonstrated in 2012 when the youth vote was a key component of President Obama’s victory in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

As you head to the polls, it’s important to remember, however, that the presidential candidates are not the only names on the ballots. After being involved with service and the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service since my freshman year at the George Washington University, I have learned that most change happens at a local level. Who makes policy decisions about our cities, police, and public schools is an important element of the fight for a more equitable and just society. Research your local congressional races to make sure you are voting for candidates who will represent your voice in Congress, but also research the candidates for your state legislature and municipal positions, and be prepared to vote on ballot measures. Use BallotPedia’s sample ballot tool to get details on the content of your district’s ballot and polling information.

With less than a month until election day, time is of the essence. Find out your state’s registration deadlines and get yourself registered. It takes less than two minutes to visit vote.org to register to vote, check your registration status, or request an absentee ballot. Make sure your voice is heard on November 8th.