Bring back the youth vote

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“Politics? Oh, that’s boring! No one cares about that!” is the typical response of the 21st century teenager. Little do they know, it has everything to do with them. Nowadays, our voting culture contrasts enormously with the culture of our grandparents’ generation. According to statistics published by the CPS November Voting and Registration Supplements, the youth voter turnout at federal elections saw a 10% decrease from 1972 to 2012, while the voter turnout of the older generation had a 3.7% decrease during the same time period.

I see a system that is awfully flawed. As a teenager who is approaching the legal age to vote, I understand why my generation fails to deliver a satisfactory voter turnout. Campaigns ignore issues that matter to youth voters, our society regards youth voting with apathy, and students are no longer getting informed about today’s issues. As a result of not being catered to by politicians and the media, we have become uninterested, uninformed, and we simply don’t care.

Campaigns nowadays are mainly focused on the issues that seem to matter most to families and the elderly, while very little is discussed about issues pertaining to the younger population. From working on a previous mayoral campaign, I have observed that many of the education platforms are aimed at families with young children but almost little to none of them pertained to young adults. This is where the “It doesn’t pertain to me” attitude comes into play. Sure, issues such as education reform and college loans are discussed, but campaigns rarely seek any actual input from the youth voters themselves. This is why it is crucial to let Washington D.C. know that we care about who is willing to listen to us when we go to cast our vote. As of now, we give off the impression that whoever runs the nation is of no concern to us. Consequently, campaigns get the idea that young people don’t care about politics, which as a result, leads to the neglecting of younger voters.

We as a society do not convey the importance of voting to the youth. With a class about government being a required course in high school, you would think that this would solve all of our problems because everyone would be more informed after taking the course. However, it’s a known fact that classrooms across the United States are geared to teach to the test and consequently almost nothing is genuinely absorbed. This leads to a lack of discussion about participatory democracy, solidifying the idea in our minds that our voices don’t matter. Research released by CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) revealed that students who participated in a high quality civic education class in high school were more likely to become consistent voters, to form political opinions, to know campaign platforms, and most importantly, to know how the US political system works. Although a civic education is not the sole reason for a better voter turnout, it definitely has a correlation. It illustrates that people who are active citizens are normally those who have received a form of strong civic education.

Townsend Harris is moving in the right direction with its Election Simulation program, which allows students to get involved in the inner workings of modern campaigns. The Simulation encourages us to research and comprehend the issues that society faces today. We are pushed to think critically and form our own political opinions. Although the process is flawed by the use of candy to bribe voters, it has touched upon the fundamentals of a highly successful program to engage students in politics. If every school across the United States implemented a program like this, our generation would start to realize that their voices really do matter.

We are simply uninformed. We currently live in a fast-paced society where we are under the constant influence of technology, and an abundance of convenient sources of news rests in the palm of our hands. However, the rapid advancement of technology also makes it easier to ignore the news. It doesn’t help us as much as we think it does. In fact, young voters are not as informed as they should be. Studies conducted by CIRCLE show that 51.3% of the youth surveyed thought that the United States Government spends more on Foreign Aid than on Social Security. When asked about who had the right to vote in federal elections, only 48.6% surveyed knew the correct answer, while 45.1% answered incorrectly and 6.2% did not know. Such horrendous results demonstrate the need for the youth to participate in a civic education that will actually inform them.

The rapid decline in young voter turnout data brings about a terrifying realization: who is going to speak for us when the adults are gone? When one examines the major gap between the elderly and youth vote, one comes to the alarming realization that there will no longer be a voter population to uphold democracy. People are starting to forget that this is a collaborative effort. American citizens, regardless of age, should be given the opportunity to vote for those whom they think should represent them. Voting is a privilege that has been passed down from our founding fathers. Throughout history, many people have fought to ensure that we do not suffer the same restrictions they had to face. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to prohibit discrimination in voting, and remember ladies, we could not vote until the 1920s. Why should we let a privilege such as the right to vote, be taken away from us by our own hands?