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Young people are voting this time

This election is crucial. With the help of the youth demographic, we can change history.

Opinion by Cassandra Nava, News Editor

Young voters need to show up at the polls this year if they want to see the change they are fighting for.

Voting trends show that older Americans tend to vote at higher rates than the younger population, specifically ages 18- 29. In November of 2016, only 46.1 percent of youth voters casted their ballots, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This election year, however, Generation Z — those born in 1997 and later — is breaking free from this stereotype that paints them as apathetic.

“Compared to November 2016, the number of young people who are currently registered to vote in 2020 is already higher in half of the 39 states,” according to data from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts (CIRCLE).

Why has the youth vote been so sparse in the past, and why is it increasing now? Valley College political science professor Dr. Tanya Mueller believes that the government can not keep up with what young adults are protesting for.

“A lot of the issues that matter to young people are ignored,” said Mueller. “Our system was designed to move very slowly, and it can be very disheartening to see. It's frustrating especially when you see the problems right there in front of you. But when young people get out and engage in protests and demonstrations, people start to pay attention. We've seen a lot of that with Black Lives Matter, the climate crisis and Parkland.”

Since the 2016 election, young activists have taken to the streets to demand change. Younger generations do get involved in politics, but in order for real change to occur, they need to maintain that energy at the polls. To ensure that these past four years will not be repeated, Generation Z must continue to explore options that will generate more engagement, such as protests that can be easily created and organized through social media.

Movements created on social media have generated real power. In 2018, March For Our Lives was a movement that started on social media, and it allowed high schoolers to fight against gun violence. The event created the highest percentage of youth voter turnout ever, a 47 percent increase over the last midterm election according to the official March for our Lives website. As stated by Dr. Anthony O’Regan, full-time professor of political science at Valley College, midterm elections typically don't get the majority of the American people to vote, so this change was significant.

“I don't buy this notion that young folks don't care about politics, because it depends on how you define the issue,” said O’Regan. “If you start talking about things like college tuition, racial reconciliation, criminal justice reform, healthcare, economic relief; that's politics. We have seen a significant increase in the last midterm election, and I think it will carry over into 2020.”

Social media also informs users by providing valid, nonpartisan information. The popular video sharing app TikTok has a voter guide that offers users in every state information on where to vote and how to vote by mail. This app, catered to young adults, is also helping with the registration process by allowing users to register to vote.

Instagram is also encouraging potential voters, with their Voting Information Center that offers registration and instructions about how to vote early or by mail.

Hopefully, come Nov. 3, the young people who were organizing Black Lives Matter movements across the nation exercise their voting right. In addressing the students who may be frustrated or anxiety ridden due to the political mess we are seeing in our country, O’Regan wanted to remind students of the power their vote holds.

“I would remind young people who look up to John Lewis and Martin Luther King,” said O’Regan, “well why did they struggle so much for this? Why did they lay down their lives for this? You have a voice in your country. It may not be immediate or direct but this is the one moment where politicians have to take a step back, and they have to abide by what the voters are saying.”

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