By Porscha Maurer
October 13, 2020
Becoming a Suffolk Votes Ambassador at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts was one of the most enlightening experiences for any 18-year-old who is interested in majoring in politics. As an ambassador, I was responsible for approaching different classes with knowledge about voting and help those who wanted to register to vote. Suffolk University generally has a large population of students registered to vote, and majority of those who are registered tend to vote in elections.
However, not everyone is registered or votes, and Suffolk votes ambassadors want to change that. Seeing how many classmates were not registered to vote or did not care about the politics of the U.S government, I was concerned about our political future in this country.
So, Who Votes?
The United States 2016 Presidential Election Census breaks down the voting data of each individual in the 2016 election. The census focuses on race and age of each voters, comparing the number of voters from 1980 to the latest presidential election. The voting data for the age groups appears in the graph below:
The census shows how citizens who are ages 18-29 have rarely voted for presidential elections in the past 36 years. This is astounding considering that this age group is made of both Millennials and Generation Z. There are two major generations intertwined into one major voting age group, yet they have significantly voted less than any other generation.
A study done by the Pew Research Study, “Millennials Approach Baby Boomers as America’s Largest Generation in the Electorate” depicts a mass growth in Millennials and Generation Z (post-millennials), which combined, surpasses the largest voting population held by the Baby Boomers. The number of voters for ages 18-29 needs to greatly increase if we are to have a say in our government.
Who Runs the Government?
It is not just voting in elections that lacks the participation of citizens who are 18-29 years old, but the entire governmental system. A Profile on the 116th U.S Congress shows that the average Members of the House was 57.6 years and the average Senators age was 62.9 years.
You might ask: why is this important?
This is important because there is no representation of younger citizens within the government. Yet, they are the biggest population in the United States. This is a major problem that leads to a decrease in participation. If there is no representation of the younger population then there will be no engagement.
Politics are not directed towards younger citizens. They become too complicated to understand and require experience to navigate. However, it becomes the paradox of trying to get your first job: “How do I get experience if no one will give me a chance?”.
In the article, “Why So Few Young Americans Vote”, author John Holbein discusses possible solutions including the need for young students to learn more civics in school. While this is a start to trying to fix the problem, we need to dig into the roots.
What Should We Do?
There needs to be a major political shock to the system. The Atlantic Article, “How American Politics Went Insane” describes the disintegration of politics in all branches. Not only did a rift between the Democrats and Republicans burst open, but it occurred throughout the entire government system. The only way to fix this would be to widen the perspectives we see within the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches.
Our original democratic system did not rely on knowledgeable people who had hard opinions about what we should do. The founding fathers were significantly inexperienced to run a country, especially considering the eldest were Ben Franklin (70) and Samuel Adams (53). All other major influencers during the creation of our nation were well under 50, most in their 20s-30s.
If younger citizens held office, there would be more voices heard from all sides. The Partisan between the parties would be moderately decreased because more voices within the middle would be heard.
Not only would more of the country have a voice in the government, but today’s issues could be handles by tomorrow’s future. A major issue today is the increasing demand of technology. In the Netflix Documentary, “The Great Hack”, the audience can see how politics and life decisions are being meddled with by social media platforms having majority of your personal data.
This is an issue that does not affect just those who take part in the government, but the United States future democracy. If our personal data is on the internet for anyone to exploit, how can our government be safe from national security threats. Younger citizens should be aware of the dangers that plague them and their future.
Do Not Be Stressed
As an 18-year-old, attending college for the first time, I understand that attempting to situate yourself into American Politics is nerve wracking. It becomes a struggle to understand the complex dynamics between the three branches. How do you know which party to affiliate with?
It becomes a hassle that feels like you need to bear it alone. But there are many solutions that can help younger students and even adults who feel unsure about politics.
Campus Vote Project is a great way to connect with different colleges and communities, and helps students break down barriers around voting.
Listening to podcasts on a national level such as, The Daily 202’s Big Idea, is any easy way to slowly submerge yourself into politics. Even listening to a local podcast can be a slow and easy transition for you to get more comfortable discussing politics and just hearing the language people use. I recently moves from Colorado to Massachusetts, and I found that one of my favorite podcasts is The Codcast. It is extremely easy to listen to and connects me to the new politics I have joined.
The first step to changing the system is getting involved. That’s all we need to do.
Campus Vote Staff, editor. “Campus Vote Project.” Campus Votes, 2019, www.campusvoteproject.org/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
. Commonwealth Magazine, commonwealthmagazine.org/the-codcast/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
“The Daily 202’s.” Hosted by James Hohmann. Washinton Post, www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/daily-202-big-idea/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Davis, Michelle. “Students and the Political Process: How AASCU Institutions Facilitate Voter Engagement and Civic Participation.” AASCU, www.aascu.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=8920. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
File, Thomas. “Voting in America: A Look at the 2016 Presidential Election.” United States Census Bureau, 10 May 2017, www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2017/05/voting_in_america.html. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Fry, Richard. “Millennials approach Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation in the electorate.” Pew Research Center, 3 Apr. 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/03/millennials-approach-baby-boomers-as-largest-generation-in-u-s-electorate/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
The Great Hack. Netflix, www.npr.org/2019/07/28/746089858/documentary-the-great-hack.
Holbein, John. “Why so Few Americans Vote.” The Conversation, 11 Mar. 2020, theconversation.com/why-so-few-young-americans-vote-132649. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
“Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile.” congressional research service, 2 Oct. 2020, fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45583.pdf. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Rauch, Jonathan. “How American Politics Went Insane.” The Atlantic, July 2016, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/how-american-politics-went-insane/485570/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.