Whenever it’s time for a local, state, or national election, there is typically a substantial amount of discussion about whether young people who have recently become eligible to vote will exercise that right and go to the polls. Unfortunately, determining whether they will take that action is not a straightforward process for many reasons.
They Often Neglect to Register
One of the main problems hindering the potential for a strong youth vote in elections is that young Americans frequently don’t register to vote. Sometimes they neglect to do so because they’re apathetic and believe their votes can’t or won’t make meaningful differences. But, others think voting is too hard, and that they should be able to do it online in all states, rather than filling out a form by hand, putting it in an envelope with postage, and mailing it at the post office.
Indeed, today’s young people are accustomed to text messages and emails, and many perhaps cannot even recall the last time they walked into a post office or had to buy a stamp. And, if they are comfortable with registering, there’s the tough task of getting them to be aware of the issues and care about them.
But, the people involved in youth voter registrations are undeterred, often setting up tables at places where young individuals frequent, such as concert venues or shopping malls. They know that in many districts, even a few hundred votes could make the difference between a win and a loss for a candidate or a political party.
Voting Can Be Intimidating
In some households, there is somewhat of a voting “culture” among the home’s residents. There, it’s expected that people will vote as soon as they’re old enough. Plus, before that time, kids might accompany their parents to polling stations, so that they at least get used to the environment there and become familiarized with how the voting booths look.
But, in other residences, voting is not a priority, and it may not be an activity that the adults in those homes think about seriously during an entire year. That could happen for many reasons. Maybe they have more substantial matters to deal with, such as feeding their families or showing up at work where employers don’t allow taking time off for casting ballots.
The point is that if a person grows up in a home where voting is not the norm, that individual may view having a political voice as an overwhelming prospect. However, a project called Democracy Class aims to change that by giving guidance about voting without attempting to persuade people to vote for particular parties.
That curriculum, which is available for free to anyone who wants it, tries to fill the gap created by the fact that most U.S. states do not require students to have full-year civics classes. That means learners may never get a formal education in school that teaches them why voting is so important — and not a scary thing to do.
Politicians Being Active in Civilian Life Could Help
People of all ages may get the impression that their local politicians are too disconnected from the everyday lives of common people to truly understand what those individuals need. Then, community members are not compelled to vote. However, that feeling could decrease if more politicians make an effort to engage with their communities.
For example, Matt Manweller has served the people as a representative of the state of Washington. One of his areas of focus is education, specifically relating to civics and U.S. government. That’s not surprising considering that Manweller has also taught politics as a professor at Central Washington University.
His efforts to connect with constituents could be instrumental in furthering his political career. And, other politicians should be mindful about how community involvement could bolster youth voting outcomes.
There is not a single solution for motivating more young people to vote. But, although the issue is complex, the fight to get results is worthy of the effort.
Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain