Voting is millennials’ civic duty

By Editorial Board

Despite the best efforts of the Democratic and Republican parties to attract voters for the looming Nov. 4 election, young voters are less likely to participate this year than in the 2012 elections. That is regrettable because this is a vital opportunity to make their voices heard.

An April 29 Harvard University Institute of Politics poll found that only 23 percent of voters ages 18–29 plan to vote in the midterm elections. The poll also found that voter turnout is likely to be lower among Democratic millennials, with only 35 percent of President Barack Obama’s supporters planning to vote compared to 44 percent of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

More than 80 million Americans are classified as millennials, meaning their participation is important because they can be among the most influential voices in elections and can decide who is elected. Millennials must recognize the importance of their vote because it impacts the country’s ability to improve its political workings and the nation’s overall social and economic climate.

Taking into account millennials’ generally liberal political persuasions, young voters have the power to maintain Democratic control of the Senate and make inroads into a largely Republican House of Representatives. This gives them the power to prevent a Congress dominated by only one political party.

Historically, midterm elections have consistently had low voter turnout rates compared to presidential races. In the 2008 presidential election, 57 percent of the voting age population cast ballots compared to 37 percent in the 2010 midterm elections, according to a July 24 Pew Research Center study.

It is unfortunate that fewer than a quarter of millennials plan to vote this election season, according to the Harvard study, because despite common misconceptions, the midterm elections are important. They determine political leaders at the local level and those leaders’ decisions can have a more direct impact on residents than decisions of the president. For Gen Y voters, it is socially responsible to gain an understanding of candidates’ beliefs and goals and follow them as they evolve throughout election season before voting.

Millennials stand to benefit the most from going out to vote on Election Day. According to a March 7 Pew Research Study, they suffer more economic hardship than their parents or grandparents. Millennials have higher levels of poverty and unemployment than other age groups, most likely because they are entering the job market during recovery from the Great Recession. Also, because they are the most highly educated generation, with one-third attaining a four-year college degree, they are plagued with higher amounts of student debt, and those who do not acquire a college degree suffer from significantly lower professional and financial opportunities.

Millennials can take action and vote for political candidates that are attuned to the issues that affect them most. Some candidates have progressive ideas about how to help college students and graduates pay off their student debt. Others want to raise the minimum wage and decrease taxes. Following political candidates and remaining actively involved in the process is the only way to create change that directly benefits the current generation and their future.