American citizens possess a profound freedom: Voting. Every year, various elections take place around the country that allow the American people to come together and elect individuals to Congress, city councils, school boards, and other public offices. One of the most important elections is the presidential election which occurs every four years and gives citizens the opportunity to collectively elect the President of the United States. American citizens can register to vote at the age of 18. Voting is a distinct privilege that many other countries do not allow and, as such, it should not be taken lightly or disregarded.
In the United States, young people between the ages of 18-35 make up about half of the voting population, however, the U.S. has “one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world.” This is extremely concerning because it shows the huge lack of interest and motivation from the youth who are the next generation of leaders. These young Americans that are showing no interest in American policy and events are going to be teaching, directing, and leading our country in a few years. This means that America’s youth need to take an active role in shaping the nation now by voting and standing up for the policies they believe in.
According to globalcitizen.org, Since the 1980s, the youth voter turnout in America has been around 50% during presidential elections and 20% for midterm elections.
So, why aren’t young people voting? According to The Conversation,“Many people argue that younger Americans fail to vote because they are apathetic about politics.” However, there are other contributing factors. One of the main reported deterrents is confusion and complications when registering to vote.
Seeing the need to educate young Americans on the importance of voting and how to vote in their state, former first lady Michelle Obama, along with Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw, launched a nonpartisan nonprofit called When We All Vote in 2018. The goal of When We All Vote is to “[change] the culture around voting using a data-driven and multifaceted approach to increase participation in elections.” This nonprofit organizes events with the goal of giving people the information and resources they need to know how to carry out their civic duty of voting.
In addition to When We All Vote, there are many other organizations and resources designed to help young Americans understand the importance of voting and the process of registration. The Campus Vote Project is another organization that “works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students, and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting.” Through the Campus Vote Project, students attending college in-person can register to vote and take a stand for their political beliefs in elections.
What would happen if more or all young people in America voted?
Young voters account for half of the voting population but are less likely to vote than the older demographic. During the last presidential election, only 46.1% of people age 18-29 cast their ballot. When asked why they didn’t vote, many of these citizens replied that they didn’t feel their vote counts, yet there have been several instances of a race coming down to just a couple hundred votes. While the outcome of politics may not seem a big deal to a young person at the time, no one can predict where they will be in four years, and whoever ends up in office could be detrimental to the life of many.
How to Vote in Virginia
In the state of Virginia, the deadline to register has already passed, but there is still time to apply for a mail-in ballot and vote early. The mail-in ballot application deadline is today, October 23rd. You can return your ballot to the local registrar by 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 3. Returning a ballot by mail must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by the registrar by noon on Nov 6. Check with your local General Registrar to confirm your eligibility to vote absentee by mail. Special federal ID requirements may apply to certain first-time voters. It is recommended to mail in the ballot as soon as possible so that delays don’t cause your vote to not be counted.
Voting early in-person in Virginia is also still available until October 31st. Early voting locations and hours of operation can be found here. You must be registered to vote and have a valid photo ID with you. You can check your voter registration status here. You can also vote in-person on election day as well at your local precinct.