The year 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This amendment ended a long, 72 year battle to grant women the right to vote. With an extremely anticipated presidential election coming up, it only seems fitting that the public should be reminded of the history of our democracy and why it is so important to vote.
In the first issue of this political column, I shared the results of a survey I conducted at our school about voting and the upcoming presidential election. One statistic from this survey stood out to me. It showed that 19.7% of the students who took the survey did not plan on voting in the election. Although not everyone at our school took the survey, this number is much higher than it should be. Youth voters are the future, and presidential candidates should be targeting us and adapting their policies to what we want, not tailoring their campaigns to the out of touch Boomer generation that will be dead by the time any of these policies are actually put into place. However, since the voter turnout of young people isn’t high, presidential candidates don’t focus on us during the election period as much as they do other populations.
Society often paints the younger generation as uncaring and apathetic. For example, only 9% of eligible voters ages 18-24 actually remain informed on national news, according to the100million.org, an organization that studies chronic non-voters to understand who they are and what their motives are behind not voting. At the same time, this uninformed, uninterested group is comprised of many people who are very politically active. We are seeing younger and younger social activists and more and more students participating in walkouts and protests. Our generation is not shy about expressing our opinions; in fact, we care in an obvious, unashamed fashion. So why aren’t we voting when our country needs us the most?
There are many reasons people refuse to vote. They might think their vote does not matter because they’re simply one person out of millions, or they might not like any of the candidates, or they might even believe the entire system is rigged. The most common reason, however, is that non-voters feel too uninformed to cast a vote. Nearly 30% of non-voters feel they don’t have enough information to decide who or what to vote for. Since they’re not up to date on news, don’t know the background information for proposed policies, and are overall unprepared, they feel their votes will be a waste. This is definitely relatable. Today’s world can be difficult to navigate. Between claims of fake news, unreliable sources, and just an overload of new information every single day, it seems impossible to keep up.
The best advice I can give is simply to try. Try to stay informed. Try to read one news article a day. Try to watch the news for 20 minutes. Try to read up on possible candidates. Try to engage with friends and peers about politics. Try to find your voice. Try to use your voice. Try.
To best represent our generation, 2020 deserves the highest youth voter turnout in history. If this alone isn’t enough motivation, vote to help spark change for a better future and to honor the women who fought for their right to vote 100 years ago.
To my fellow Washington students: if you’re overwhelmed with all that voting entails, do your best to be prepared, but please do not become a non-voter. In the 2016 election, 100 million American citizens did not vote. If they had, it would’ve impacted our society in ways we can only imagine. Women 100 years ago did not fight determinedly for decades for us to be afraid to speak up, or to think our voice doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own voice that deserves to be heard in the 2020 election, so use it.