Traditionally, younger people do not have as high voting numbers as other sects of citizens that are older and generally more affluent. The numbers have not changed much over the years. As people grow up and understand the importance of government and voting more, the more they turn out at the polls.
Many young people think that their votes don't matter - even after the extremely close election of 2000. Some don't care, and some just don't understand how the Electoral College works. Some even think conspiracies go on concerning the elections. However, there are many educated young people as well - people who actually sat up and listened in their civics and political sciences classes.
I've tried doing my part. I've taken government in high school and political science in college. I may not have mastered all the theories and terms or gotten the best marks, but I paid attention to the major concepts. I discussed what I learned out of the classroom with other young people. I even gave a persuasive speech in a speech communications class about the electoral college and passed out voter registration forms as my call to action.
Personally, I have signed up numerous peers to register to vote. I frequent the post office to pick up voter registration forms to give to my sometimes lazy but well-intentioned friends. I have had a link to voter registration in my Instant Messenger profile. I also know many friends who do the same.
We are fired up. We feel the last election was stolen, and many of us young people are more than dissatisfied by our current president. One of our objectives is to get Bush out of office. We know the way to do that is to get other young people to get out there and vote. And who better to replace Bush than Kerry, while conforming with the two-party system our government has in place.
MTV and their Choose or Lose campaign is really influencing young people. We got to see a more informal interview with Kerry, which made him very appealing to young people. Also, the Twenty Million Loud campaign is calling for more young people than ever to vote. I genuinely think young people are taking this election seriously and want to be counted and recognized.
The biggest challenge in getting young people to vote, of course, is getting them educated and registered. Many young adults are uncertain of how the registering and voting processes work and are afraid to admit it or ask for help. By other young people openly discussing the elections and voting as we are, we are encouraging our peers to ask questions and gain knowledge on the subject. I voted in the 2000 election (for Gore) and am more than willing to share the experience and satisfaction with anyone who cares to listen.
No matter how many young people turn out in this 2004 presidential election, it will not be as many voters as the adults. This has always been true. The number is not declining, but hopefully it will begin to rise in the near future. Young people are beginning to realize what we have to do: Spread the word. And we are. Instant messenger is an important tool to us young'uns. We chat, and more and more, we are chatting about politics. Our generation is growing up faster and faster as we see some of our peers disappearing to war - one we thought we'd never see. Our parents had Vietnam, and we always felt safe. We no longer feel safe in the wake of 9/11 and this second Gulf War. Fear has caused us to grow up and begin to take responsibility. To make change, we are talking to each other. We debate. We express our thoughts. We encourage one another to get to the polls and put our money where our mouths are.
Many young adults tend to vote with their parents. Party is not genetic. A vote should be based on more than relationships. It is an important and confidential voice to which each individual citizen is entitled. Voting is not an outlet to rebel against parents or get in good with a boy or girl; it's a very grownup responsibility.
If you don't feel educated enough to make a decision on your own, check out the candidates' Web sites so you can read up and decide for yourself... www.JohnKerry.com; www.GeorgeWBush.com; www.VoteNader.org. And please register to vote. A simple form found online or at the post office and a stamp is all you need.
This year, there still won't be an alarmingly large number of young people at the polls. It's still going to be generally low. But the young voters that are at the polls are going to be more educated and passionate than in past years. Young people are uniting for a common goal: ABB -Anybody But Bush!
Kelly Devine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.