Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 make up 40.7 million, or 21 percent, of the eligible voters in the United States; however, in the 2000 presidential election, only 46 percent of voters meeting the age qualification marked their ballots.
Being the year of a presidential election, countless organizations encourage the registration and participation of American citizens to exercise their right to vote-the promotion of involvement is ubiquitous. Despite the efforts of the innumerable associations dedicated to inform, intrigue and implicate, many young Americans entitled to vote choose not to.
Although the right to vote is frequently overlooked by some, the privilege has drastically evolved. Changes began in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which stated that the right to vote must not be denied to anyone based on race, color or previous conditions of servitude. However, many states continued to disenfranchise minority voters until the approval of the Civil Rights Act in 1965 that codified the 15th Amendment, clarifying the prohibition of discriminatory infractions, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, which some states practiced in order to establish white supremacy.
In 1971, just years after the 15th Amendment modifications, Congress passed the 26th Amendment, reducing the qualification of the voting age to 18 in all federal, state and local elections. Prior to these principle alterations, in 1920, the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Though these laws were new to the previous generation, many young adults have not begun to utilize these freedoms. The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed people who did not vote in the 1996 presidential election and determined some common reasons why adults between the ages of 18 and 29 evaded the polls. The results showed that 21.5 percent reported being too busy, 16.6 percent were not interested in the election, 14.9 percent were unable to vote due to illness or an emergency, 13.7 percent did not like the candidates and 34 percent had other reasons.
Dr. Jolyon Girard, a history and political science professor, thinks that many young adults do not relate to modern politics. “Young people don’t see the issues as fundamentally affecting them,” Girard said. Subjects such as Social Security, Medicare and homeownership, which are more so forthcoming matters, may not be of concern to younger Americans, consequently discouraging their interest in becoming informed of each candidate’s position.
History and political science department Chairman Dr. James Hedtke agrees that the political ignorance of the apathetic individual hinders their ability to relate to many of the issues discussed by the candidates. Hedtke also believes that parents have a major influence on new potential voters. “The key to how you’ll vote is how your parents vote,” Hedtke said. “If your parents are partisan, you’ll be partisan.” However, Hedtke points out that those who have parents that do not vote are more likely not to take part in the election process as well.
Kristen Tharan, a junior elementary education major, is not a registered voter and attests to Girard and Hedtke’s conception of younger eligible voters. “Honestly, at this age, I’m not interested in politics. Even if I did register, I wouldn’t know who to vote for,” Tharan, said.
Another reason that individuals choose not to vote is based off their indifferent preference towards both the candidates and their issues. Ian Dahlgren, a junior graphic design major, does not have a strong stance on either candidate and is weary about making a choice just for the sake of voting. “I would vote. I’m interested in bits and pieces of what they say, but neither candidate really appeals to me,” Dahlgren said.
As a result of this public uncertainty, Girard said that many voters in this year’s election will either “vote for Bush or against Bush.”
Ray Croce, a junior history and political science major, believes everyone should vote, but objects to those who plan to do so despite their lack of knowledge surrounding candidates. “I think the people who don’t vote are ignorant to the topics and issues and that they’ll make uneducated decisions. I’m glad they don’t vote,” Croce said.
After the election in 2000, some Americans have been deterred from voting because they believe that their votes will not affect the election. Presidential candidate Al Gore won the popular vote with 50,992,335 votes over opponent George W. Bush, who had 50,455,156 votes; however, Bush was able to claim the presidency by winning the Electoral College-after his success in Florida, Bush had successfully gained the majority needed to take the election.
The Electoral College is a weighted voting system in which each state is assigned a specific number of votes in accordance with its’ population. In every state, each political party offers a “slate of electors”; a list of individuals devoted to their presidential candidate and equal in number to that of the state’s electoral votes. On Election Day, voters in each state cast their ballots for the party “slate of electors” that are representing their choice for president and vice president. The party slate that wins the most votes in the state becomes that state’s electors; therefore, whichever presidential ticket receives the majority of the votes in a state wins all the electoral votes of that state.
Croce disagrees with those who think that their votes will not affect the overall outcome of the election. “Your vote counts because it chooses the Electoral College, which determines who will be president,” Croce said. “It’s foolish if 18 to 24-year-olds don’t realize the kind of impact we’d have on the election if everyone our age voted.” Croce urges young American voters to take the initiative and appropriately educate themselves by thoroughly researching each of the candidate’s campaigns to ensure conversant decisions. “The ends are the same. The means are what you need to focus on,” Croce said.
Posted to the Web by Lori Iannella