The Rising Importance of Student Voting

Two protesters of gun violence in New Jersey hold up signs in solidarity with students and future voters. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Voting is the most streamlined form of democracy. Although many minority groups face systemic oppression-based obstacles with the process, the intention of representation in government remains the same. With a highly polarized political climate and rampant national scandals, it’s hardly a surprise that young voters ages 18-24 are casting ballots at an increasing rate. In the 2016 national election, 50 percent of eligible youth voted, a near-identical amount to the 2012 turnout. In the 11 key battleground states, 55 percent of eligible youth voted. This increase in voter turnout follows predicted trends, and continues to rise as local and special elections take place around the country. However, young voters are still doing so with less frequency than any other age group. With the Portland Municipal Elections recently finished, many Franklin students had the opportunities to cast their ballots for the first time.

Senior Abbie Hall voted because she “doesn’t feel like [she] can say anything about how the government should change or improve if [she’s] not contributing [her] vote.” Hall reasons that voting is the simplest way to make one’s voice heard, especially as a young person. “A lot of young people are unhappy with the way our government is currently operating, but the reason it is the way it is is because older people are getting to the polls and young people are neglecting to vote,” Hall says. She argues that because younger generations will be directly impacted by the decisions made in today’s government, it is especially important to vote as soon as one can.

According to an online survey of 101 students, 91.1 percent of those surveyed believe that it is important for one to be registered to vote before they turn 18. Senior Kristina Strommer agrees. “The sooner [eligible citizens] register the sooner they’ll vote,” Strommer says, pointing out that the initial process of a task is often the most difficult part. She also points out that although voting is “one of the most effective forms” of democracy, “nothing has ever been done in this country without some form of civil disobedience,” citing the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage movement, among others. Strommer also points out the unique ability young voters have to represent their peers and Americans whose opinions aren’t recognized in elections, such as children and undocumented immigrants.
Voter registration numbers have steadily increased in Multnomah County in recent months regardless of age. Nationally, the number of young voters registered under the Democratic Party is higher than those registered as Republican, but both parties are steadily losing young voters as the bipartisan system continues to lose popularity with younger generations. With the number of eligible Millennial and Generation Z voters close to surpassing that of the Baby Boomers, the future of political parties, ideologies, and outcomes remain unclear. However, one thing is certain: as long as the opportunity of democracy exists, people will have their voices heard.

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