“Are you registered to vote?” Most days, it seems like I can’t make it through the walk to class without being barraged with this question. As someone who cares deeply about civic engagement and the power of voting, I have gratitude for these canvassers. However, many of my peers are quick to dismiss their simple voter registration requests. Despite 18 to 24-year-olds comprising the largest voting bloc in 2018, they continue to have the lowest voter turnout. There are no straightforward answers as to why young people are largely disinterested in politics, but the way in which voter engagement messages are communicated to them play a significant part.
Recognizing the disconnect between young people and the political process, candidates and politicians do not shy away from speaking at college campuses. Instead of acknowledging the diversity of the youth, they tend to only categorize us by our age. The need for young people to vote and get involved is brushed over, so we can be campaigned to. Those seeking to be elected or re-elected do not hesitate to explain why we should vote for them over someone else. That seldom sounds convincing to me.
Young people are skeptical. At a point in our lives marked by confusion and sensitivity, our political opinions are quite literally in the making. If our government has a history of ignoring our needs and choosing to be unresponsive toward our requests, we have reason to not buy into an institution. We are dismissed because of our supposed naivety. Take the Democratic National Committee for example. Democrats have fervently campaigned the youth vote, but the DNC did not mandate paying their interns until 2017. Vote for me. Work for me. Don’t expect anything in return.
We easily lose hope. For many of us, the 2016 presidential election was our first voting experience. Though initially emboldened by this, the results left a great deal of us jaded and with the lingering feeling that our votes were worthless. Gearing up for this November’s midterm election, an efficacy message is still not employed. We are told the solution is to vote, but voting itself does not instill us with the belief that we are making a difference. In a hyperconnected world, we strive to be instantly validated. We need someone to illustrate that voting today will have a generational impact.
Perhaps the largest issue is with the sender of these messages. With the plethora of politicians’ failed social media attempts, we want someone to genuinely relate to us in place of these gimmicks. Studies show personal stories and connections hold the most influence. Speaking to your friends, family and mentors about voter registration and their plans to vote proves to be more effective.
Registering to vote should not be partisan or politicized. Regardless of how this is communicated to us, we must to take the time to reflect and fulfill our civic duty. We are more than just the future. We are the now.
This blog post was written by PRowl Secretary Christina Borst.