Millennials and Gen Z are potentially the most important voters, and yet we have the lowest voter turnout rate. This will be the first time Gen Z can hit the polls (using the year 2000 as a divider), but while Millennials made up 25 percent of the eligible voting population in the 2016 Presidential election, about 50 percent of us actually did our civic duty. THAT'S ONLY HALF!
Below are some reasons why you should and must head to the polls this coming November and every future election.
1. It's more important (and easier) than that time you voted for Phillip Phillips to win American Idol.
On the ballots are people and policies that will change the course of our towns, states, and country for the rest of our lives. It's your money the government is spending – or cutting. Why leave those decisions up to other people?
You've devoted more time and research into plenty of more trivial things, whether it's scouring Amazon for the perfect tapestry for your new apartment or visiting every Mexican restaurant in LA to determine where the best taco is. Those projects deliver instant gratification, which is why most of us are more inclined to engage in that than researching the candidates and referendums on the ballot. But this is only twice a year, every other year. Maybe the time it takes to watch four Grey's Anatomy episodes throughout your college career. And the reward, although less direct, is far larger in scope, impact, and longevity.
2. It's more than just the President.
In a state like California, it's easy to dismiss the Presidential ballot because of how blue the population votes in federal elections and the way the electoral college works (are we really a democracy if the popular vote doesn't elect? That's a tangent for a future article.).
But it's far more than the President on the ballot, and they can affect you far more directly:
3. You get to complain about elected officials and ballot referendums.
Silence gives consent. So if you choose not to vote, you rob yourself of an opinion. Voting isn't the only way to civically engage, but it is often the easiest. If you don't do this bare minimum, expect an egregious reaction when you complain about a lack of public transit, tax rates, or your representatives.
Don't be complicit in what you find wrong in your community, state or country.
4. People are trying to take away citizens' access to voting. I wonder why. 🤔
It's easy to think your vote doesn't make a difference. But if that were truly the case, why are there so many organized efforts to suppress youth, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and impoverished from voting?
Because they know every vote counts.
Since our country's founding, the right to vote was limited – property-owning, white males were the only ones deemed worthy. Although eventually blatant, identity-based discrimination was technically outlawed, the original attitude translated into the Jim Crow laws in the early 1900's, suppressing poor and racial minority voters through poll taxes and literacy tests. Most of these ploys were criminalized by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but this hasn't stopped state efforts, socialized attitudes, and personal tactics to suppress voters.
For example, in Texas, a voter ID law was repeatedly found to violate anti-discrimination laws. However, the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has expressed support for Texas's ID law.
In June, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio's voter purge system, effectively allowing OVER A MILLION Buckeyes to be purged of their voter status.
Politicians make the claim that laws like these confront voter fraud, but the incidence of voter fraud is negligible, to the point of it almost never happening. From 2000 to 2012, over 620 million votes were cast in national general elections. Of those, 2,068 alleged fraud cases were reported (half of which weren't even credible). That's 0.000003% of votes. Almost nonexistent.
For the 2016 presidential election, staunch Trump supporters were incited to "watch" voter booths and poll sites. Their organized efforts constitute voter intimidation of mainly racial minorities. These aren't allegations; they are proud to admit these crimes against Americans who don't look like them. One perpetrator confessed to the Boston Globe, "I'll look for, ... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them."
What all of this amounts to is that VOTING = POWER. Voter suppression takes power away from citizens. You have the power, use it.
5. It's your future.
Today, we are living in the decisions of generations before us. We now have the ability to influence our own paths for days, years, and decades to come. The job of our REPRESENTatives is to REPRESENT our needs and concerns when they are discussed in Washington, D.C.. They can't do that if we don't tell them what we need.
Here you can find the voter registration deadlines for your state. If you are in California, you must be registered to vote by October 22nd. It takes two minutes online to register and find resources on your polling place, mail-in voting, ID requirements, and everything else to make your voice heard.