Elected candidates increasingly represent and create a policy for older generations, as a product of youth not casting their ballots. On Yale campus, we’re trying to combat that.
There’s no doubt that the American political landscape is viciously partisan and divisive: despite most citizens identifying as Independents, it’s difficult to find a political middle ground. Nonetheless, both parties typically agree on issues that make democracy, a democracy—separation of power, constitutional rights, more—should be eternally bipartisan.
Voting is the central mechanism that connects citizens to our representation. There’s no end to how you can stress the importance of voting—after all, it’s what makes our governance democratic. But the numbers are beyond dismal: The United States trails almost every other developed nation in voter turnout, fluctuating around 60% for Presidential elections. For primaries, that number drops to 40%, and for local elections, the percentage is usually in the teens.
What’s worse, local legislation often reeks of voter suppression laws—mandatory ID laws, gerrymandered districts, purging ‘inactive’ voters—according to the US Government Accountability Office, over 60% of polling places had one or more potential impediments to voting accessibility.
Citizens who vote also drastically misrepresent America: those with postgraduate education are over twice more likely to vote than those without a high school diploma; citizens making over $100,000 a year vote 39% more than those making less than $10,000; and citizens in rural areas consistently vote less than those in cities.
As an Asian-American 18-year old college student, I’m in an intersection of the least represented demographics: only 37% of eligible Asians vote in presidential elections, and Generation Z (18-25) votes almost 25% less than senior citizens do.
The marked gap in young voters has a few dramatic consequences: First, by not voting as soon as we can, my generation fails to create a habit of voter activism. A study Yale professor Alan Gerber established that voting is habitual: casting a ballot in a single election makes a statistically significant difference in whether you’ll vote again. If only 40% of 18-year old citizens vote now, what does that say for our future?
Secondly, elected candidates increasingly represent and create a policy for older generations, as a product of youth not casting their ballots. Without ownership over our elected leaders, voter apathy only increases, creating a cycle of systematic indifference.
On Yale campus, we’re trying to combat that. Last year, I joined a group of my peers at Yale University who founded Every Vote Counts, a national nonprofit dedicated to voter engagement. We launched the National Pledge to Vote, a step forward towards unifying university students and Americans everywhere in the fight against voter disengagement. We created a cross-campus competition between Harvard and Yale, turning voter engagement into a sports rivalry. Both campuses saw monumental results.
I hope you join me in exercising your right to keep democracy democratic, and vote.