Why It’s So Important to Encourage Young People to Vote

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

When lawn signs are posted, and stickers are boastin’

Their opinions and different concerns.

Then in waves they come flocking, to the polls they go knockin’

To ensure that their voices are heard!  

That’s right. November is fast approaching, which means students are gearing up for exams. But those aren’t the only midterms coming up. With political tensions as high as ever, this upcoming midterm election is extremely important. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with about a third of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, are up for election on Tuesday, Nov 6.

Throughout history, young leaders have been at the forefront of political protests, acting as advocates for change and progressive ideas. Today, with smartphones in the hands of virtually every youth in America, they possess a front row seat to the 24/7 news cycle, as well as a built-in platform on which to discuss, organize, and expand their views, start widespread movements and instigate change. The explosive power of #BlackLivesMatter and the #MeToo movement are evidence of the social and political involvement of the younger generations.

Unfortunately, election seasons plague the U.S. with a voter turnout that suggests an apathetic youth. Nonprofit VOTE reported that in every midterm election since 1994, the turnout for voters between the ages of 18-29 has not peaked above a dismal 24 percent. The question then is: if they can assemble thousands of people to march in a protest, then why don’t they march to the polls?

One potential answer is the growing number of high school graduates are choosing to pursue higher education at institutions far away from their designated polling location. According to the United States Department of Labor, 58 percent of students attend college within a 100-mile radius from home and an additional 11 percent attend school out of state. With elections always taking place on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester, it is understandable that a large number of students cannot afford to go home to vote on Election Day.   

While absentee ballots are available for those in this predicament, anyone who has ever tried sending a request knows what a confusing nightmare the process can be. The outdated, varied, and difficult to follow steps can make people feel overwhelmed and lead them to abandon the cause entirely. Also, hectic and demanding schedules make it difficult for students to find the time to conduct the research necessary to stay fully versed and up-to-date on the stances of the multiple candidates running for local state and federal offices. Young voters might not want to cast their vote if it is not based on well-developed and educated considerations of all their options.    

Fortunately, Julia McCarthy ‘19—a Political Science major and Communication minor here at Marist College—took it upon herself to develop an innovative way to make voting accessible to anyone who is eligible right here on campus. From Oct. 1-4, as part of her senior thesis project, she set up Absentee Ballot Request booths all around campus in an attempt to facilitate and organize the confusing process.  

With McCarthy’s carefully designed system, any student could quickly and easily send a request for an absentee ballot and cast their vote without having to go home on Election Day. For out-of-state students, the whole process takes about 5 minutes. All that is required is an email, the address used to register to vote, and a current address. Just like that a request form is stamped and mailed to the appropriate town or county clerk, and in two weeks a ballot will arrive in the mail.

In the meantime, students were emailed a sample ballot where they could easily find the names and political affiliations of the candidates running office in their county and state, making it easier for students to inform themselves and be more confident in their voting decisions. The drive had proved to be very successful, with around 100 students sending in requests forms on each of the first two days alone. McCarthy hopes this drive will continue long after her graduation this fall, and even make its way onto colleges and universities all around the country.  

CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ronald Brownstein, declared in a recent article that in the year 2018, millennials will pass baby boomers as the largest age group in the electorate. However, this means nothing if they don’t show up to the polls and vote.  

Young Americans should be represented by leaders who share their vision for the world they want to live in.  If they have the time to tweet a message or post a Facebook status, then surely they have the time to vote.

Sofia BolanosComment