6 Reasons Millennials Don’t Vote (And 6 Reasons You Really Should)
Today is Election Day, and this year’s vote is a very big deal. The US Senate stands to see a major power shift, and this election’s results will set the stage for the 2016 presidential race. Women’s rights also hang in the balance, because we unfortunately live in a world that puts our bodies up for a public vote, and the rights we have regarding our own reproductive health depend on tomorrow’s results. Despite how important this decision is, very few millennials are eager to vote. In a poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics earlier this year, only 23 percent of young Americans said they’d definitely be voting this November. Unfortunately, that’s hardly the first set of data showing to indicate that twenty-somethings aren’t so into exercising their rights. To make matters worse, the average voter turnout for modern presidential elections bleakly hovers somewhere around half of all eligible voters. Here are some of the biggest reasons millennials don’t do their civic duty, and a few reasons you should vote despite those obstacles…
Reasons millennials don’t vote:
1. You have to register first. People either forget to do this before the deadline or decide it’s not worth the trouble.
2. Voter ID laws may prohibit some millennials from casting their votes. Some local and state governments are on a mission to ban same-day registration, early voting, and other policies that make getting to the polls a little easier. Some regions of the country aim to prevent anyone without an ID from voting, which often threatens the rights of our most vulnerable citizens. Supporters claim this is to prevent fraud, but it can leave some young people without a voice.
3. It’s a hassle to make the time. Polls are often only open during business hours or just a few hours into the evening, which is tough to manage when you work all day and then have to drag yourself to the voting booth, where you’ll inevitably stand in a long line. Many states legally mandate that employers allow time off to vote, but there’s no promise that you’ll be paid for that time. Absentee ballots for out-of-state college students are also a pain to track down and require planning long before election day.
4. We may take it for granted. The passionate battle for women’s and minorities’ rights to vote happened before we were born. Millennials may be good-intentioned and appreciate those who fought for equal rights before us, but the fact is that we don’t know what it feels like to risk everything we are to stand up against a scary, powerful monolith just for the ability to exercise our most basic American right. We were born with a voice. It’s easy to forget how recently things were so very different.
5. We see ballots as archaic and ineffective. We grew up with social media, where our voice can be heard in a very tangible way and we can literally count how many people we impacted through retweets or shares. A single, private vote on a piece of paper hardly seems to have the same impact as sharing your political beliefs on Facebook and changing the views of dozens of readers. But the reality is that changing the ideology of strangers means very little if you don’t elect leaders into office who will represent that ideology in future legislation.
6. Since when can I trust the government to care about me anyway? Millennials love a good grassroots effort, but it’s easy to feel that the grander scale of politics ignores the issues that dictate our lives. Many millennials feel like the grand theater that is Congress is for older people, or rich people, or any other group that is decidedly not us. Most millennials’ first impressions of politics as children was the train wreck that was the 2000 election, and that impression only got worse when we watched parents lose jobs as the economy crashed and then graduated into a mountain of debt and a sparse job market.
Reasons you should vote anyway:
1. It’s your right! That in itself is reason enough! We have a voice, and while that should be a given for everyone in this world, it most certainly isn’t. I don’t mean to lay on the guilt trip, but I’m totally going to anyway – people all over the globe would give anything to participate in just one free and fair election in their lifetimes. Our own country is far from an equal society, but the right to vote is what America was built on. People have died for this. Lots of people.
2. Choosing a candidate forces you to get informed. In choosing who to vote for, you’ll learn a lot about the hot topics in your community, popular candidates’ track records, and potential outcomes of each candidate winning office. Knowing more makes you a better citizen and able to make better personal choices in your everyday life.
3. Your reproductive rights are at stake. Women’s rights are seeing more threats these days than they have in decades. Wouldn’t you like access to contraception so you can plan a family on your terms or have sex without fear of pregnancy every time? And wouldn’t you like to know that if you needed an abortion, a safe and legal procedure would be available to you? How about knowing you’ll be paid the same as your brother or boyfriend for the same work? Dudes, this applies to you too. Reproductive rights are not just a women’s issue, they’re a couples’ issue.
4. Celebs even want you to vote. Maybe this shouldn’t be a reason, but that’s pretty cool, right?
5. You don’t want a bunch of strangers to make big choices for you. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t even trust most people to decide what I should eat for lunch today. Do you want those same randoms deciding on the big stuff like what your taxes will go toward or what your health insurance plan will look like?
6. The world is a mess. Violence is erupting all over the planet, unarmed kids are getting shot, terrorists are running amok, climate change is threatening to ruin everything, and Ebola and HIV/AIDS are killing thousands – and this is just the big stuff! Basic rights are being violated every day on the smallest of scales. It’s reason enough to be very angry, but that anger shouldn’t be reason to opt out of political participation because of the hopelessness of it all (even though I am tempted to do so on the daily). Your one vote may not end world hunger or singlehandedly trample ISIS, but it’s a start. It’s a way to say you care about what happens next.
I know Congress seems even more useless than usual these days with its constant gridlock and petty battles between cranky old guys. I also know America has lots of problems, and that glaring issues like racial inequality, sexism and poverty are just the tip of the iceberg. But I also know that the fact that we have some small voice in the system is a pretty amazing thing, and this is coming from a person who has a pretty frequent tendency to be a conspiracy theorist (again, child of the 2000 election). Even so, I still feel optimistic about voting. We have to try to be optimistic, and we have to use our vote, because if we don’t, we’re giving away our power to others without even putting up a fight.
[Image via Shutterstock]