By BORA ZALOSHNJA ’20
Young people have the ability to make their voices heard in the American political system if they choose. According to the Center for Information on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 46 million people aged 18-29 are eligible to vote. CIRCLE found that in the 2012 election young voters had a significant impact on 80 electoral votes across four swing states.
Even though Millennials possess this power they often fail to harness it. In 2012, only 45 percent of eligible youth voters cast a ballot, down from the 51 percent that voted in 2008. Low voter turnout is a serious problem among Millennials, who are known for their lack of civic participation, yet they desire that their voices be heard among politicians.
Some professors at Trinity have given their students Election Day off to combat this problem. While it may seem like one class-free day would not make much of a difference, statistics show Election Day holidays do increase voter turnout. Countries such as Austria, Belgium, Germany, and a number of others that give their citizens Election Day off from work or school and have higher voter turnout rates than the United States. Too many Americans find themselves too busy with day-to-day life to make it to the polls.
College students fall prey to this problem as well, which is why it is beneficial for professors to cancel class on Election Day. On top of that some young people simply do not register to vote in time. Many college students are first-time voters, and they are not entirely familiar with the protocols and deadlines.
A lot of Millennials are discouraged from voting due to the political process. Even Donald Trump’s own children, Ivanka and Eric, did not manage to register in time for the New York primaries and were not able to cast their votes for their father. Organizations like ConnPIRG work hard to combat this problem on campus, even going door- to-door to register people to vote, but the passionate individuals who volunteer for these types of organizations cannot fix this problem all on their own. For voter participation to go up things need to change, both on a school-wide and national level.
Making Election Day a national holiday would be the first step in doing this because many working Americans cite work as their reason for not heading to the polls. Additionally, simplifying the somewhat onerous voting process could only help.
Countries such as Australia and Sweden that automatically register citizens or send registration forms in the mail see voter turnout rates of over 96 percent. The Australians even go as far as to charge people a fee for not voting. Some may say this is contrary to democracy, but with almost 100 percent voter turnout, one could argue they are actually a much more democratic state than we are.
There are also practices that unfairly target minorities. Voter ID laws and gerrymandering often leave the lower classes or minority voters with a minimized impact on elections. These practices leave citizens disillusioned with the political system, and many do not even bother to try to vote because they feel their ballots will not matter.
On a school-wide level, Trinity could implement a few new policies to increase student voter turnout. First, polling stations on campus would offer easy access to voting and could help students who feel like they simply do not have the time to vote, and assist those who need to apply for absentee voting in their state. Second, giving students the day off to vote could also help increase participation. For many busy college students who feel overworked this could be the end to the excuse “I just didn’t have time to vote.”
Voting is both a privilege and a duty of American citizens. It is essential in keeping a healthy democracy running. As the supposed leader of the Free World and crusader of democracy, America’s turnouts rates are sadly low. Only 52 percent of the voting age population voted in 2012. This year, the fate of this country is riding heavily upon the results of this election, and it is very important that those results reflect the wishes of the whole population. It is of paramount importance that all the people of this country vote, and that we work together to get our fellow citizens to the polls.