College years are when many people start to feel like adults for the first time, but they’re also when many legally become adults. We start to have more control over our own lives, making our own decisions about our finances, education, health and so on.
We also become legally able to vote for the future of both our local area and nation in elections.
The presidential election, the so-called “horse race,” is on national display and will be a hot topic in the news until a new president is actually chosen next November. The nonstop coverage can get tiring, and many are discouraged from voting.
However, many of us forget midterm elections, primary elections, or even the general elections on Nov. 5 of this year through which we can influence our local area’s taxes, school board, city council members and more.
Despite being a fairly large voting group, we as millennials and Gen Zers don’t exert our full voting power.
In the 2016 presidential election, only 46.1% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Compare that to 70.9% of those older than 65 and 66.6% of 45- to 64-year olds who voted. Even though we’re adults, our parents and grandparents are still making decisions for us by voting in elections more than we do.
According to a Pew Research Center article from 2018, those born between 1981 and 1996, or millennials, are projected to become the largest living adult population in 2019. Generation Z also has a growing number of voting-aged members.
With the two generations combined, those 38 years old and younger could have the greatest voting power in the nation. But that’s only if we choose to exert it.
College students hear a variety of arguments trying to get them to the polls, many of which feel patronizing and condescending. Of course, there’s the trite “good citizenship” argument for voting in which we’re guilted for not doing our “civic duty.” But, labeling voting as a solemn duty may not be the best way to describe it.
Voting may be a civic duty, but realistically, voting is making decisions on issues that will directly affect us and those we care about.
Showing up to cast a vote is one of the greatest ways we can exert our influence as citizens, sure. But it’s also how we can ensure local and national policies and public servants work best for us.
By the time most of us register for spring classes, the window for casting a vote in this year’s general election will already have closed. And the two processes — voting and registering for classes — are not so different. When you choose your classes, you’re making sure your future is secure, on track and heading the way that you want it to go. You could choose almost any classes theoretically, but only you know which ones fit your goals.
In an election, you can vote in whichever way you like; no one is supervising your choice.
You can even choose not to vote, as so many of our peers did in 2016. But only you know what your goals for the future are and how you want the next few years of your life to go. By casting your vote, you’re choosing what you want your future and the future of your community to look like. We have the voting power to make changes, it just comes down to actually taking action.