Youth vote more important than ever with upcoming midterms

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 50 percent of eligible voters aged 18-29 voted in the 2016 United States presidential election. Multiple factors influenced low turnout rates.

In the United States, voting isn’t mandatory. Because Americans aren’t obliged to vote, the responsibility of registering is upon them. Many people don’t have the time, don’t know how or don’t want to take the extra step of registering to vote.

Ayesha Amsa, a University of Maryland sophomore public policy major, views voting to be “extremely exclusionary.”

“I mean, ex-felons are legally barred from voting,” Amsa said. “Undocumented people can’t vote. Politicians usually don’t canvas in poor neighborhoods. Poor people often can’t afford voter ID cards or have a way to get to the polls.”

Registered voters are also discouraged to participate in elections. The two-party system often limits political choice because it’s so polarized. It doesn’t necessarily appeal to youth voters because it forces them to choose between two options that might not reflect their actual interests and concerns.

“There is the issue of actually finding a politician that cares about your humanity as a marginalized person - if you’re Yemeni, Palestinian, a formerly incarcerated person, etc., it can be hard - nearly impossible - to find a politician willing to stand up for you,” Amsa said.

Although the youth struggle with voting, they still remain a very essential demographic.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of November 2016, millennials and baby boomers made up 27 percent and 31 percent of the electorate, respectively. In the next few years, millennials are expected to surpass the boomers.

“Sometimes I feel like my individual vote doesn’t matter. But I also feel like one vote can impact an overall decision and outcome,” said Theresa Nguyen, a sophomore neurobiology and physiology major at UMD.

Amsa argues that voting isn’t always the only or even the best way to incite change.

“I do think it’s important for college students to vote,” Amsa said. “However, I also think it’s important for college students to get involved in various social justice organizations on their campus.

“I don’t think that voting is more important than organizing. We didn’t vote South African apartheid away. We organized against it. So yes, it’s important, but it’s also just one aspect of making change. In a lot of ways, it’s also the most cop-out, least effective answer to making change happen.”

Because of its increasing numbers, the youth vote becomes that much more important. Voting at a young age develops a habit, encouraging a person to stay civically engaged during their lifetime.

Additionally, young people have a great influence in election results. After examining the youth effect on the 2012 presidential election results, CIRCLE found that President Obama would’ve lost Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney if it weren’t for the substantial amount of youth votes he received. In all four states, the youth vote for Obama made up more than 60 percent of voters in that state. Pennsylvania had the largest portion of youth voting for Obama at 66 percent.

With midterm elections on Nov. 6, many people have voted early or are preparing to vote.

“I think it’s really really important for college kids to vote because the world is constantly changing, and we literally are the future,” Nguyen said. “If we don’t vote we’ll continue to put the same people in office who aren’t doing the right things.”