Historically, younger citizens have been less likely to vote in elections. However, younger voters are the individuals who are most affected by policies implemented by elected officials, making their votes all the more meaningful. The opinions of younger individuals need to be heard by them taking advantage of their right to vote, especially in the 2020 election. Some believe that the younger generations’ reluctant voting patterns make their votes insignificant, however, in today’s changing world, we need young voters now more than ever as their participation in the 2020 election will shape their futures down the line.

The History Behind Voter Participation

Younger generations have historically been less likely to vote for a variety of reasons. Firstly, younger people move more frequently (moving to college, moving for a new job, etc.), making the registration process more complicated and leading young adults to refrain from voting at all. Younger people are also less likely to possess a driver’s license, which is typically a necessary component when voting. Political campaigns are less inclined to target members of the younger generations than older age groups, making younger citizens feel as though their votes don’t matter. 

Regardless of the obstacles that stand in younger citizens’ ways of voting, the number of students utilizing their right to vote is on the rise. A recent study conducted by Tufts University suggests that college students who typically wouldn’t vote or didn’t care about the results of an election have started to participate in politics over the past four years. For example, the number of eligible student voters that actually voted increased from 19% to 40% between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. At Harvard University, the voting rate more than doubled from 2014 to 2018, and 49% of eligible student voters cast their ballots. President Trump’s controversial policy decisions have only inspired more and more younger citizens to exercise their voting rights. 

In the past, college administrators have been cautious in their promotion of student activism and involvement in politics out of a fear of uprisings or protests on their campuses.  However, within the past ten years, many colleges have realized the importance of civic activism among its students and therefore have incorporated civic education across academic disciplines within their institutions. Colleges and universities can help encourage their students to vote by guiding them through the voter registration process and explaining their voting options (voting by mail, by absentee ballot, voting early or on election day.)

Why the Young Votes Matter

Younger citizens, specifically aged 18 through late 20s, are directly affected by the officials that are elected into local, state, and presidential offices. The opinions of the younger generation matter during elections, as their decision to vote or not to vote will impact their futures in the long run. Specifically within local office elections, candidates make decisions regarding student debt and funding for higher education, which directly pertain to young adults. 

Youth voters who want to inspire change need to play an active role in our American democracy. Older age groups are more likely to show up to the polls, but those age groups are not as concerned with issues pertaining to younger generations. For example, politicians supporting policy reform in areas affecting college students, student debt, and healthcare will only be able to create change if they are elected, which requires votes!

“No one else is going to vote in the interest of young people except young people.”

Even though younger voters who have just entered adulthood may not be concerned with finding a job or dealing with debt right away, it’s important that they remember that they (or their peers) will be facing these challenges in the coming years. The officials that are elected will greatly affect policies that apply to young adults’ futures.

Voting in 2020

It’s imperative that voters are made aware of the voting procedures in this year’s presidential election, as the risks of COVID19 have led to the restriction of in-person voting. Many states are now encouraging voting by mail. There are two kinds of mail balloting systems, the first is absentee balloting, and the second is universal vote by mail. Both of these systems entail sending in your vote from home. Voters must go online, call, or write to request an absentee ballot from their local election authority, and they must provide their name and address with this request. Once voters mail their ballots into local election authorities, the authorities make sure that each individual is a registered voter before counting their vote. The authorities also make sure that each ballot was sent and received from the same address that was listed under that registered voter’s name. The local election authorities engage in these detailed procedures as a means of fraud protection. Individuals who are charged with election fraud can be fined or sent to prison. 

Due to these meticulous security measures in place, election fraud occurring during the 2020 election is highly unlikely. Research has proven that neither party gains an advantage from absentee balloting or universal vote by mail. No evidence supports Trump’s grandeur statements, which assert that mail ballots cause election fraud. 

Trump recently stated that the 2020 election will be the “greatest election disaster in history” due to the enforcement of mail ballot systems. President Trump believes that mail voting will take too long to retrieve election results. Some believe that Trump’s declaration that the mail-in voting systems are “corrupt” and his predictions of “fraud” are only efforts to instill doubt in the 2020 election in case the results are not in his favor.

Do Votes From Young Adults REALLY Matter?

The 2020 election marks an important year in voting trends, as millennials and Generation Zers have taken a higher interest in politics than the baby boomers ever did. Over the past decade, millennials and Generation Zers’ interest in politics and social movements has been on the rise. They’ve been engaging in participatory politics, a movement which entails members of the younger generation demanding more out of their representatives and government figures, while also holding their peers accountable in their involvement with politics and understanding of current events. These younger citizens have utilized social media as an outlet to have important political discussions and learn more about each candidate. 

Although this makes younger citizens and their voting capacity seem powerful, many of these younger voters see no candidate that is worthy of their vote, and therefore don’t cast ballots in elections. Young adults today view the presidential candidates as neglecting younger individuals, as their campaigns rarely focus on the needs or wants of millennials or Generation Zers. Younger citizens today also hold strong opinions on topics such as climate change, student debt, gun control, and other controversial points, and they feel that the available candidates are not presenting effective policy proposals to deal with these issues. 

Some may feel that these refined opinions of the younger generation make them too “picky” or “choosy” to vote. They may argue that if younger voters’ have such specific goals for each official, they’ll never find a vote-worthy candidate, and refrain from voting entirely. With this argument, political campaigns may distance themselves from younger citizens because they don’t see the point in trying to win their vote… in the eyes of a candidate, why would they waste time trying to fit the particular goals of each millennial? The younger generation’s ballots must not be important if they only vote when their exact priorities are met.

The reality is, there will never be a perfect candidate that suits everyone’s exact needs. But that shouldn’t stop the younger citizens from exercising their right to vote, especially when the results of the presidential election will have a large effect on their future. It is their responsibility to contribute to the American democracy by taking advantage of their freedom to choose, even if they’re not in love with the candidates on the ballot. By exercising their right to vote, young adults are actively contributing to the systems that will shape their futures. Their votes are crucial in the formation of a government that is truly reflective of the American population. It’s also important to remember how impactful the younger voters truly are; the younger generation makes up about 21% of the voting population, making their votes all the more meaningful in the outcome of an election!

Youngsters, the Power is in Your Hands.

In these uncertain times, it’s important that younger voters are encouraged to vote in the 2020 election by their mentors, peers, and institutions. Overall, the younger citizens hold the potential to truly initiate change in our nation with their recent passion for activism, but that can only be accomplished if they exercise their right to vote!