It is without a doubt that our most recent election was a turbulent one to say the least. With many contrasting beliefs among the population, our country is in limbo wondering where we want to take our nation in the future. One thing I think we can all agree on no matter our party affiliation is that the youth need to be more involved with politics. One of the easiest ways to get young people more involved is by increasing voter registration. According to the United States Census Bureau, in Chester County alone, a little over 100,000 young voters from ages 18 to 29 voted in the last election out of over 500,000 registered in the district. Something needs to change.
There is a belief among young voters that voting in non-presidential elections don’t really matter or that their vote won’t make a difference. In reality, we know they are important, but we are all caught up in our own busy lives that we just assume the older generations will get around to voting for us. We need to be influencing the legislation that will be impacting our generation the most. I for one can attest to the lack of exuberance most young voters feel when it comes to elections that are not for the president. Many friends of mine and I voted in the 2016 presidential election but couldn’t bring ourselves to vote in the primaries. I now know how important it is to vote for as many local, state or federal positions as possible. Who we elect determines what kind of society we enter as young adults.
America’s voter turnout is far below that of other democracies and uneven at best. Last year, according to the U.S. Census, 70 percent of those over 70 voted, but by contrast, only 43 percent of those under 25 did. Increasing voter registration is an issue all political parties need to care about. This is no longer about increasing voters for a specific party, but more about increasing youth involvement in politics across the nation. Every vote counts. This a common and cliché reason to try to increase voter turnout, but it is the one that resonates the most. We are already on the path of greater voter turnout with almost half of all Millennials voting in the 2016 election, but there are still great disparities in voter turnout across non-presidential elections. It is more than possible for young voters to make huge differences in politics. 150,000 people are already 18 or turning 18 this year in Pennsylvania alone. If each one of them voted, young people could outweigh almost every other age demographic.
Real change is at our fingertips. There are many ways to get more involved in politics and voter turnout in general on and off WCU’s campus. Ellie Sullum, coordinator for the voter engagement club Dub C Votes has helped WCU get more involved in the voting process. “Registering to vote is the action students take to enable them access to the polling station.” says Sullum. “When students understand why they’re making the effort to vote, their vote then gains personal legitimacy. After walking away from the ballot, first time voters can take pride in making their voice heard and participating in democracy.”
Most political parties have representation here on campus as, well as the voter engagement club that helps to increase non-partisan youth voter registration on college campuses. It is also very easy to get involved locally in politics with meeting places for all political affiliations located in Chester County, Willistown and Malvern (to name a few.) The primary elections occur on May 15. This is another opportunity for young voters to start to shake things up. Go out, vote and make your voice heard. We as youth voters need to take charge of the world we are inheriting and start making a real impact. Let’s be the change.
Madi Ogborn is a first-year student majoring in communication studies. ✉: MO883968@wcupa.edu