By Melanie Spina
I recently registered to vote through the Rock the Vote website, an organization whose main goal is to get more young people involved with politics. To be honest, my reasons for not registering as soon as I turned 18 were largely because I was lazy and forgot to do so. It had little to do with my lack of interest in politics. However, as I started to question what candidate I will give my vote to, I realized that it was time for me to stop being lazy and register.
Because, if I had not registered then what was the point of even thinking about the election’s possible outcome if I myself wasn’t even registered to vote yet?
Thinking about issues that will affect you and who will fix those issues all leads back to the most essential fact: you simply have to vote for there to be progress. I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is interested in politics, but ironically I have always been passionate about social issues, and those two do come hand in hand. Whether it’s immigration or health care policies, everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, we are not all equipped to run for president, so we seek for the candidate who represents our best interests.
As a millennial, I believe that our generation is extremely socially conscious, whether it is by expressing their opinions on social media or by simply having an awareness of the current issues. However, contrary to my perception of my generation, according to a report done by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), last year was the lowest youth turnout rate ever recorded in a federal election, with only 19.9 percent of 18 to 19-year-olds voting.
As a young adult, sometimes we feel as if our vote doesn’t count or one vote won’t tip the scale one way or another. I feel otherwise; the youth votes are the ones that count the most. Young voters are the voice of the future. The votes that are cast by young voters will directly impact their lives in the future. How could their vote count any less when they are the ones who are voting for their future?
Senior broadcasting major, Jacqueline Niciforo, plans on voting in the November presidential election. “I think it’s important for college students and recent graduates to be interested in voting,” she said. “It’s not really about being interested in politics only, rather to be interested in your own future.”
Remember that the economic policies that politicians make directly affect young citizens. According to Debt.org, 70 percent of college students leave school with student loans that average $33,000, and they are having a hard time finding jobs. This statistic alone should keep millennials interested in what candidates have to offer and propel them towards the voting booths.
We live in the United States of America, a country that is a democracy, where we are told that our voice and opinions matter. Yet we still take our right to pave the future of our country for granted.
Fortunately, as the primaries begin for the 2016 election, there has been a rise in young voters. During an interview with NPR, the director of CIRCLE claimed that in the Iowa caucuses the youth turnout was the second-highest in the last 20 years, at 11.2 percent. I believe a big part of the youth turnout has to do with Bernie Sanders, a candidate who expresses interest in the concerns that the youth of America face. This hypothesis was supported at the New Hampshire primary where 83% of Sanders’ votes were from 18 to 29-year-olds. These results give us hope that as we continue with the primaries and then the general election in the fall, there will be a much higher turnout for youth voters.
Personally, I think it’s great to have someone like Sanders representing the youth; he is someone who is not afraid to move forward. There are candidates running who we may think are a complete joke, making a mockery of our presidential election. However, that does not mean that the youth should not be motivated to vote in this election. Quite the contrary.
Remember that you are not just voting for a person but rather for what that person stands for. If there are no young voters, then there will be no one voting for their future interests. If you are over 18 and are yet not registered to vote, I hope this article has persuaded you to go out there and do so. Registering is so easy, you can do it online, in person or by mail and all you have to do is fill out a single form. For more information, visit dmv.org or rockthevote.com.