Some young voters choose not to cast their ballots

By Eleanor Blick

As Election Day nears, analysts are buzzing with predictions about the young adult voter turnout. The big question: Will the age group’s record participation in the 2008 election be repeated? The answer: Not likely.

Unfortunately, I will contribute to what will likely be a drop in the turnout. I am not casting a ballot this election.

But contrary to the popular epithet rattled off about the disengaged millennial generation, I don’t think I spend too much time tweeting or watching “Jersey Shore” to pay attention to the news or make an informed decision while casting a ballot.

I don’t think there are many candidates on the Illinois general ballot worth voting for. Senatorial candidates Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias are more concerned with impugning one another’s reputations than in discussing the issues. Neither Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn nor his Republican challenger State Sen. Bill Brady has the initiative needed to make the sweeping changes and reform Illinois needs from the gubernatorial level down.

I don’t believe it falls within my civic duty to vote for the candidate I am least dissatisfied with.

However, my decision not to vote has led me to other realizations about the challenges of encouraging and retaining the young adult vote. While statistical analysis of 18- to 29-year-old voters typically looks at socioeconomics—race, education level, employment status—other factors influenced my decision, and I am sure it’s true of other young voters.

The 2008 election was full of promise. It was the first election I was able to vote in and an election where we had confidence our votes would make a difference. Behind 1972, 2008 saw the second highest young voter turnout in American history. Some of the changes promised were realized and some fell flat—as they always do. The public became increasingly dissatisfied with incumbents—as it always does. As a result, it seems the majority we fought so hard to elect in 2008 is on its way out—as it always is two years down the road.

But I, like many college students, remain registered to vote in my home state. I voted absentee in 2008, and at the time I was still well-versed in Wisconsin’s candidates and ballot.

Three years of living in Chicago has left me disconnected with Wisconsin’s issues, though. If I voted absentee in 2010, I would be casting an uninformed vote. Similarly, casting a vote in Illinois for any of this year’s candidates feels like just as much of a waste.

As a journalism student I am engulfed in Chicago’s news coverage, although it’s not the city I am registered to vote in. Every day I scan news sites and read about the issues. I am not naturally equipped with the historical context of some problems, as I would be with Wisconsin’s, but I could easily explain the platform points of Kirk and Giannoulias or the differences between Quinn’s and Brady’s campaign.

I have found I am taking in the news more as a student than a citizen. I’m constantly searching for story ideas, constantly analyzing the structure and the sources of pieces. I think it’s my job to read the news more so than my civic duty. All it continues to tell me is little hope exists for Illinois this year.

I am torn between casting a vote in a state whose politics I feel wholly unconnected to and attempting to vote in a state whose politics are notoriously unconnected to us. In Wisconsin, my vote would make no sense. In Illinois, my vote would not elect a worthy candidate.

On Nov. 2, though, I am sure I will feel a pit in my stomach. I will feel slightly guilty for not voting, although I feel as if I’ve been left out of the race.