To the polls we go

Why do so many young people choose not to vote?


Art by: Talon Staff

Picture it: you’ve just turned 18. In your own mind, you’re quite literally unstoppable. The ability to purchase lottery tickets, get married and vote clouds the judgment of teenagers across the country. In the minds of many freshly-turned 18 year olds, freedom and possibility are at the absolute forefront; many of us are consumed with a grotesque amount of certainty that they are going to take the world by storm.

Throughout this blur of new possibilities, many young adults lose sight of one of the most important facets of their adult lives: voting. In the United States, a law has even been installed to pre-register soon-to-be voters, the Motor Voter Law, when teenagers as young as 16 get their driver’s licenses. The fact that a system has been implemented to make the voting process easier for young people, and yet so many don’t take advantage of what has been an attempt to help our youth transition to voting life, is reflective of the immense amount of voter apathy across the nation. 

Statistically speaking, less than half of voters ages 18 to 24 typically cast ballots. This most recent midterm saw significant progress, with national voting rates in young adults escalating from 39 percent to around 50 percent. That being said, the fact that the progress our nation has viewed between the last voting cycles still leaves only half the youth of the country voting is a hard reality to face. 

Comparably, many nations globally do not experience nearly the same gap that America does when it comes to young versus older voters. 

Although the United States isn’t alone in seeing a gap, it fares pretty dismally, with the fifth-lowest youth turnout in the sample and the fourth-biggest gap between youth and overall turnout,” Alexandria Symonds wrote in the New York Times. 

Progressive ways of thinking have swept the nation for many young adults. Disconnected from a seemingly antiquated political system, youth may lose its passion for voting because America’s political system seems too far gone to be fixed with a simple increase in voter turnout. 

Generational gaps when it comes to political views have only added to the political tensions crossing the United States. The older generation tends to believe that the youth has become too radicalized to keep America’s political integrity intact; on the contrary, youth may believe that the older generation is too far gone to understand their desires for a political reawakening. Instead of taking a step towards taking the political reins from an older generation that they feel doesn’t understand them, many young people instead step back, refusing to participate in a system that they feel does not properly represent them. In the face of these disparities, why shouldn’t the youth step up in an attempt to take the political world by storm? 

Despite the fact that voting was an immediate plan for me once I turned 18, there was definitely a part of me that wondered whether casting my ballot would make any difference. There may be a recognizable feeling of unrest among young people as it pertains to the political climate; a general dislike for the system stops thousands of young adults from casting their ballots. Many voters, to this end, feel that their “vote doesn’t matter anyway.” Discouraged by the polarization of American political parties, it is crucial that we remind young potential voters that the first step to redefining our political climate is by voting, and allowing young voices to be expressed through election results. 

Consider the 2020 election: in the face of political disconnects, candidates like Kanye West step into the running, inserting themselves into an already-chaotic political climate. The reality of the matter is, our flailing political climate is not a joke; despite this, it is often treated as one when people lose sight of the fact that their vote actually has the potential to make a difference. Rather than help spark time periods of positive change in our political environment, many people joke around and don’t take their role in politics seriously. Doing the research in order to make a difference is a cause worthy of an entire new generation — something that many people seem to lose sight of in the face of today’s media-based culture. 

The question must be asked: at what point, and after what kind of implications, will young people step up and genuinely participate in elections? Some factors dissuade many from participating in voting: namely, many young people don’t have enough political knowledge to fill out the ballot in its entirety. As intimidating as it may seem to keep up with political goings-on in order to partake in them, the government sends out ballots and ballot information early for a reason. 

To alleviate the massive amounts of political polarization our nation faces, we must take the first step from our own neighborhoods. Whether you vote by mail or in person — and in-person voting is yet another factor that scares off many people, both young and old — your vote does count. Exercising your ability to participate in American politics is doing more for the improvement of our country than it feels while you’re filling out the ballot. 

“When certain groups have more say in what happens in their communities and the nation, we fall short of the premise of our democracy,” Circle, a research program through Tufts University, cited. “Thus, broadening youth voting is one of the vital tasks in strengthening democracy.”

It is one thing to sit around and complain about the political instability of America; it is something else entirely to be actively working towards correcting the gaps in participation that can be seen in all parts of the country. It might seem hard to grapple with initially, but to young people — get out there and vote! We can only begin to spark real progress if we start today; so get researching, get out there, and vote responsibly.