The foundation of the United States of America was built on a democracy, it was how the Declaration of Independence came about and how the Constitution was written. Now this article is not here to teach you a thing or two about American history or politics but the meaning of a democracy is that the citizens get the opportunity to speak out against their government. One of those ways occurs once a year. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is Election Day and Americans are encouraged to vote. What is not so encouraging is the numbers of today’s youth when it comes to hitting the polls. The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971 to allow people to vote at the age of 18. Where are they?
According to a study done by a Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) student journalist the day before election day, shows out of 85 people polled aged 18-26, 36 percent of them were likely to vote the next day. In a similar survey done after Election Day by the author of this article, out of 66 people that were polled from age 18-27, just 27 percent of them actually went out and voted.
“We don’t have a draft,” said June Lang, associate professor of social science, “That was a push then from those who didn’t want to go to Vietnam. What is the push now?” As per CNN, in New York, for the United States Senate seat, out of about 17,500 respondents, only five percent of those ages 18-24 came out to vote between Charles Schumer and Jay Townsend. Out of nearly 1,800 of respondents for the Governor’s seat, those who are between the ages of 18-29 comprised of just 13 percent of the vote. But why did so many young people choose not to vote?
“No I didn’t vote this year,” said Jill Mackiewicz, 21, majoring in liberal arts. “To be honest, I don’t know anything about the candidates prior to election day, or even now.”
“I didn’t vote this year due to a limit on time and the busy schedule,” said Connie, a 21-year-old nursing major at SCCC. She chose not to give her last name.
According to The New York Times, the 2008 presidential election saw 22 percent of New Yorker’s came out to decide on who should be our next president. Still, the numbers of youth voting were not that high, mid-term elections generally see a lower turn-out in voters.“It was a good payoff for the millennial generation in 2008 because the younger generation got out and voted,” Lang said, “Student loans would not be as important in 2008 if not for the youth turnout.”
The millennial generation is referred to the generation born between the mid-1980’s and the mid-2000’s who have the increased familiarity of technology like cell phones and other hand held devices that could also easily connect to the internet, computers, and television with its vast array of channels. Social networks like Facebook, Myspace, and blogging all play into today’s millennial generation.
“There was instant information during the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a need to connect,” said Lang. “The youth showed an interest and their interests were addressed,” she included.
There is still that decline in youth voting with youth issues that still need to be addressed that might not be without young America voting.“It is important for young people of our age group to vote because we are built of mostly students struggling to pay off school loans and bills. We need government assistance a.s.a.p” said Mackiewicz. Lang also added that a higher college education and the cost of tuition is being paid for at the youth’s expense.
“I can relate to this age group of people. Some may believe their vote/voice doesn’t count or isn’t heard. If you want change, you should make it yourself,” said Connie.
“I just never registered for voting and I don’t have time,” said Silvia, 27, also a nursing student who chose not to give out her last name, “I didn’t even know who was running.” She also added there is a large population of America’s youth and voting is for their future and that they can make an impact on who gets elected.
“Government certainly won’t get any better if people don’t get involved. Young people can shape the atmosphere. They proved to be a force in the 2008 election,” said Lang. Lang mentioned how politicians listen to those who vote. Students are just not showing up to vote which is why their issues are not being addressed. She also said how the youth of today is the counterpart to the elder vote.