As a child, my mother always made a point to drag me along with her to all elections, big or small. She tried to make an event out of it, and would always let me keep her “I voted!” sticker. The entire process fascinated me, and I couldn’t wait to watch the news later on to see if my mother’s choice was the winner. As a turned eighteen this past April, one of my first excitements for adulthood was being able to vote. My friends were excited to get tattoos and buy scratch tickets, but I was ready to get in line and vote. This past September I voted for the very first time with my mother; she still gave me her sticker.
This may just be the political science major in me, but I always try to project my election season enthusiasm onto my friends, no matter how annoying they find that. Then I am reminded of my AP Government and Politics class, where my teacher preached to newly eligible voters in his classes to get out to the polls. Every year he sees this unenthusiastic pattern I mention, but he is never surprised, given one of the first lessons he teaches each year is the low voter turnout beginning at the age of the students he teaches.
In the United States today, voter turnout is disappointingly low. The legal age for citizens to start voting is 18. However, the 18 to 29 year old age group has the lowest voter turnout in the country. On the other hand, the 60+ year old age group has the highest turnout. Some reasoning for this may be that older citizens have more political experience and understanding, therefore have strong opinions in which they vote on. Alternatively, younger, newer voters have less political knowledge, and may be intimidated by the voting process. At this young age, it may seem insignificant to vote. However, programs such as Suffolk Votes are pushing the importance of voting among college students, and assisting the registering process, so that voter turnout can increase, and political decisions reflect the opinions we know Suffolk University students have. In addition, universities in general today have been attempting to educate students more on government and politics unbiasedly. School is where many youths spend the majority of their time and focus, so real-world education should be enforced. Ultimately, democracy will be more productive if citizens are engaged and voicing opinions that matter to them. If not, the results of elections will not mirror the actual beliefs Americans have.
According to SuffolkVotes statistics, 83% of Suffolk University students were registered to vote, while only 67% of those voted in the 2016 general election. These numbers are not awful, but are in no way impressive. These percentages show that a majority of students are taking the first step and becoming eligible to vote, but not following through with the commitment. Luckily, according to the United States Census Bureau, 36% of eligible 18-29 year olds voted in 2018, a sharp rise from the previous 20%. Will this trend continue in 2020? In an election as unpredictable as this one, only time will tell. We know that it is unlikely to achieve 100% voter turnout, because after all Americans equally have the right to choose not to vote. Still, our hope is that presenting these facts serves as encouragement for more students to head to the polls this November.
The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election is October 24th. Using social media activity and Class Raps presentation, Suffolk votes will register as many of our students as possible. Today, a main informational source for American youth is social media. When something is reposted heavily among platforms like Twitter or Instagram, it grabs the attention of technology addicted “gen-zers”. Further, as a SuffolkVotes Ambassador, my partners and I will be visiting classes to assist the registration process. To do this, we will be breaking up classes into two groups: Massachusetts residents and out of state students. Then, we can help walk through the registration websites and answer any of the confusions there may be. Out of state students have the option to register in their home state or in Massachusetts. If they are registered to vote in another state, they can mail in an absentee ballot from campus. This process may seem complicated and intimidating, but my fellow ambassadors and I are here to alleviate the stress and avoid procrastination. As this program has gone on, many ambassadors have reported that Class Raps don’t take long at all, because most students are already registered or are eager and ready to.
Truly, registering shouldn’t cause stress. Rather, it is a memorable milestone in an American’s life. Our goal with this is that students have someone to motivate them with this task, so it is not avoided until it is too late. All in all, voting is the best way to elect one’s own values into official placement. When politics gets intense, many are quick to state “I don’t get involved in politics” or “I’m staying neutral” in order to avoid conflict between others. Especially when discussing the Trump or Biden decision, a common trend is to see no outstanding choice, but rather decide on the lesser of two evils. However, forming personal political insight is a great American freedom, and discussing politics with someone of a different point of view can be mutually beneficially educational. The Constitution protects our freedom of expression, and our right to speak freely on our perspectives. Being a political participant is one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do.
- Symonds, Alexandria. “Why Don’t Young People Vote, and What Can Be Done About It?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/upshot/youth-voting-2020-election.html.
- “Suffolk Votes.” Suffolk University Boston, www.suffolk.edu/student-life/student-involvement/community-public-service/suffolk-votes.
- Misra, Jordan. “Behind the 2018 U.S. Midterm Election Turnout.” The United States Census Bureau, 22 Sept. 2020, www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/04/behind-2018-united-states-midterm-election-turnout.html.
- “Absentee and Early Voting.” USAGov, www.usa.gov/absentee-voting.
5. Dionne, E.J. “When Did Voting Get So Intimidating?” Brookings, Brookings, 28 July 2016, www.brookings.edu/articles/when-did-voting-get-so-intimidating/.
I really like the interesting take that you set on this, in entering your own personal experiences whilst also explaining how SuffolkVotes works. In your second paragraph, you explained the lack of voter turnout as a problem, then demonstrated the solution as being a part of the Class Raps or being an Ambassador. I thought this was an interesting structure on how you did this, and how well you wove in each individual piece to a greater message. Good job!
P.S. Do you think you can have a greater voice in local elections as opposed to state or national elections? I’ve been curious about people’s opinions about that for a while.
Thanks, Matthew! I definitely think that it is easier to get involved in local elections, because they are typically on a smaller scale and located right in one’s hometown. Because these elections are smaller and more focused, it is easier to get your message across to all the people who can participate in the election. Local elections can feel more personal and meaningful to daily life, so it may be easier for people to have a voice in that perspective.
Hi Rose! This is a great post. I am so glad that you are a SuffolkVotes Ambassador and are educating people our age on how important voting is! It is interesting to see the statistics you mentioned stating that the 18-29 year age group has the lowest voter turn out whereas the 60+ age group has the highest. You said it may be because the older generations may have more political experience therefore will go out and vote to voice their political opinions. Do you think this has changed recently? I cannot help but think of all of the issues that have occurred the past few years, and how it has impacted that 18-29-year-old age group that is not as inclined to vote. For example, David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, has voiced his opinion and beliefs on gun control openly on his social media platforms, urging others to take action. Do you think seeing people who are the same age as you voicing their political opinions inspires others to go out and vote for what they believe in as well?
Hi Sarah! I do think that this year especially more younger voter are getting politically involved, given the tension around this presidential election. I do think that seeing people around my age being active is inspiring. In fact, I remember the #neveragin and March For Our Lives movements organized by David Hogg and his classmates sparking a lot of political discussion in my high school. People like him showed us that politics is not something exclusive for older generations, and our opinions matter just as much. Whether they agreed of disagreed, it got people talking and motivated people like me to be ready to vote at age 18.
I really enjoyed your post. I thought you had an interesting point throughout the post. It was very interesting that you put your own personal experiences with voting into the post while also incorporating Suffolk votes and how it works. I think it is awesome that you are a part of Suffolk votes and are trying to make a difference in voting. It surprised me, in your second paragraph, how many people between the ages of 18-29 did not vote in 2018. Suffolk votes seems like they are really trying to make an impact on the students to get out and go vote. Your post was extremely inspiring and I hope more people read it and are inspire to go vote as well!