Get over your apathy

By Christina Williams
January 29, 2004

Lauren Joseph

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 8,635,000 registered voters between the ages of 18 to 24 voted in the 2000 Presidential election. On the other hand, in the same election, 18,077,000 did not vote and they also are between the ages of 18 to 24. The difference is 9,442,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24, which to me is a massive difference. The question America is asking itself is why are so many people between 18 and 24 not voting?

I think one reason people in this demographic are not voting is because they don’t understand a lot of what the candidates are talking about. All the issues candidates are talking about are issues that will affect this age group in years to come. I don’t think many of these people see the big picture and that these issues that are being discussed will affect us when we are old enough to understand these issues.

For example, what 20-year-old is sitting around thinking about their 401K? When these people start to think about retiring in about 30 or 40 years then they will be worried about their pensions but not while they are still in college trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

Another example would be the 18-year-old that is putting money into Social Security. The 18-year-old probably knows that FICA is taking their money but do they know where that money goes, who is receiving it or if they get a part of that in the future? Honestly, how many 18-year-olds are thinking about the Social Security checks they will be receiving when they are 60 or 70?

There are tax issues that even I don’t understand. There are homeland security issues and healthcare issues. Most people that are in the lower half of the 18 to 24 age range don’t even understand or know about the war going on in Iraq, so how are they going to understand the issues like homeland security related to the war?

The list of these “adult” issues goes on and on. Until candidates can present these “adult” issues in a manner that 18 to 24 year olds can relate to, the number of voters in this demographic will decrease.

I think another reason 18 to 24 year olds don’t vote is because half of them are probably too busy to stop and look at the news or read the newspaper to know what these issues are. Most of these people are in college trying to figure out what to do with their lives, some of them are starting their lives, and others are trying to maintain the life they have chosen.

The final and most important reason I think people 18 to 24 don’t vote is because they don’t understand what a privilege it is to pick the person who is running their country. There are people that go around saying vote because you have the right to vote so go out and vote. Well we have the right to do a lot of things like freedom of speech and therefore I think that people take this whole idea that we have the right to vote for granted.

None of the 18 to 24-year-olds have ever been in a position where they didn’t have the right to vote or the right to a fair and just trial. I can see how the right to vote would be an incentive if we lived back when the Bill of Rights was first written. However, 18 to 24 year olds have always had this right so when people say it is our right to vote that means nothing because it is something we have always had.

I am not saying that all young people don’t understand politics because I’m sure there are people that understand these important issues. Statistics show that at least 8,635,000 have a reason to vote. Honestly, I can think of 10 people right now that are part of this 8,635,000. They could have voted because they understand what is going on or it could have been because they wanted to cancel someone else’s vote. What I am trying to say is that I don’t want to pigeon-hole all 18 to 24 year olds because there are people out there that understand everything President Bush and the other candidates are saying.

There are two ways I think the number of young voters could increase. One way would be for high school or even middle schools to teach a class in the election process and politics. It should be a required class not just for political science majors and it should start back when children are younger.

I also think that young voters won’t start voting until they understand the issues being raised. Most of my friends are education majors so I have learned not to teach children what they can’t comprehend. For example, first graders don’t learn long division before they can add. Therefore, young voters need to understand the basics before they can understand the bigger issues. Candidates need to make the important issues relevant to 18 to 24 year olds and make them see how important these issues are now.

Posted to the web by Lauren Joseph

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Christina Williams

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