“Young people just don’t vote these days!”
As a young person and a politically active one at that, this phrase has always been a thorn in my side. Mostly because it has been undeniably true. In the 2020 Super Tuesday primaries, youth turnout (18- to 29-year-olds) couldn’t reach 20 percent, according to Tufts CIRCLE, and only a few states exhibited growth in youth turnout before COVID-19, according to John Della Volpe. Youth turnout could definitely be higher, but it is disingenuous to claim that the youth “just don’t vote.”
In reality, youth turnout is hindered by many things: having to work and deal with college stress while also voting, confusing mail-in ballot instructions for students going to college or those working outside their homes and a disillusionment around who represents the youth all attribute to this low turnout. COVID-19 has helped compound the stress that many people are facing, and the uncertainty around mail-in voting has certainly contributed to those fears.
However, just because young people aren’t voting doesn’t mean they aren’t getting their voices heard. We’ve seen young people actively organize protests for Black Lives Matter, respond loudly to calls for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and continue to fight for Breonna Taylor. We have seen the energy manifest in ways that are more present and arguably more dynamic than a voting record. Yet, unless the youth votes on top of all that, all their efforts will inevitably end up stymied.
To the young people out there: Keep fighting the good fight. But if you have the time, I highly encourage you to get registered and vote ready for the general election at https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/voter-registration.shtml. For those looking for some way to help turn out the vote for others, please go to http://centerforcommonground.org/main/index.php/campaigns/reclaim-our-vote.
Marcos Fernandez Montana