For years, our nation spent time wondering: if young people had the chance, would they vote? It was 1970 and Nixon had finally passed a bill giving 18-year-olds the right to do so. While it was hardly obvious in 1970 that young people would take the chance, the same may not hold true today. The youth were angered and enraged after nearly a decade of social and cultural upheaval at the time, and they were excited to gain justice.
“We will gain a group of enthusiastic, sensitive, idealistic and vigorous new voters,” Senator Edward M. Kennedy said at the time. Despite his convictions, this much has become clear: Mr. Kennedy was wrong. Throughout the years, the youth voter turnout has declined. Many of the older generations find it easy to stick onto old ways while the younger generations want to change. How many of them are willing to fight for it, though? In more recent polls, it is shown that in 1998, only 13% of young voters (18 years old) participated in the civil act, while in 2004, 47% participated. This may look promising, but in our most recent election, only 36% turned out, indicating that there must be something hindering the youth in America.
According to Youth Service America, “Whenever young people are surveyed, there is a significant lack of knowledge about how exactly the government works, and, therefore, how their vote actually matters. Nearly 20% of young people said they don’t think they know enough to be able to vote.” Many times, when there is an argument involving politics, it can seem like gibberish. It is important to familiarize yourself with what the words mean. Having conversations with people is the most effective way to learn about our government.
On top of simply not understanding, many feel they just don’t care. “I never really cared about politics until this election probably because it seemed too complicated,” says a senior at Waukee High School. “No one at my house really talked to me about it and I guess I thought the issues didn’t affect me.” Many parents skip discussing politics with their children, which is unfortunate. It is a great time to begin letting kids have their own beliefs. It is important to teach young people how to register and vote and help them learn and practice these behaviors before they turn 18. Help them learn about the issues and encourage them to share what they learn with others.
Simply put, others feel that their vote will not make a difference. “I have always heard that it doesn’t really matter if you vote because it barely does anything to help,” says another Waukee student. Two-thirds of eligible voters do not vote in the United States. If everyone has the same views on this, then nothing would be able to get done. It takes everyone to make the difference that we want.