Younger Voters, Brighter Future

Published on November 2, 2020

The 2020 Presidential election is shaping up to be an unprecedented event in modern American history. A key factor driving this is a groundswell in youth and first-time voter turnout

Demographic of Concerned Voters

As a young, second-time presidential voter myself, I acknowledge this election is different. It demands my generation’s participation to ensure meaningful change, not just in the administration, but also in the policies pursued. The rise in the political consciousness of Gen Z, inspired by notable figures like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has paved the way for this growing demographic’s meaningful involvement. 

As I have written previously, neither presidential candidate speaks loudly enough to the growing policy concerns of young voters. Polls currently show Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a clear lead among younger voters. However, it is important to note that Biden’s support among Black and Hispanic youth has recently slipped. Overall, Biden maintains a lead over President Trump in these demographics.

Amidst a pandemic, economic degradation, a housing crisis, and increasing threats of climate change, young voters are acutely aware of the importance their vote will have on our shared futures.

One-in-ten eligible voters will be between the ages of 18 and 23 by election day. These new voters are both engaged and focused on the issues. Although a majority of their information stems from social media platforms, which faces its own political controversies, it allows the youth to be in touch with contemporary issues and even shape the political landscape. Young voters are concerned about the threat of the climate crisis, economic fallout, money in politics, pro-war policies, and the entrenched swamp in D.C. of the power elite.

Counting the Numbers

Ten states have already seen at least a 20 percent increase from 2016 in voter registration of 18-24 year-olds. Tufts University’s CIRCLE project shows in 32 out of 40 states, registration among 18-24-year-olds is higher than in 2016. “However, in 16 states, registration among youth ages 18-19 is lower than in 2016, suggesting the pandemic may have hindered efforts to reach the youngest eligible voters,” notes CIRCLE. Conversely, six states have seen a more than 50 percent increase in voter registration among those aged 18-19 in the same period. 

“More than five million people ages 18-29 have already voted early or absentee in the 2020 elections, including nearly 3 million in 14 key states that may well decide the presidency and control of the United States Senate,” reports CIRCLE. 

Pew Research projects Latinos will be the nation’s “largest racial or ethnic minority in a U.S. presidential election.” Nearly 34 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year. According to census data, around 40 percent of eligible Latino voters are ages 18 to 35, highlighting the potential for young Latino voters to be a consequential voting block in this election. Even more so, the Latino youth vote will continue to play an influential role in elections to come.

Hopefully, Joe Biden is taking pointers from Sanders’ Latino outreach Director, Chuck Rocha, on how to encourage voter turnout by speaking to issues most critical to this demographic (although I doubt it)

Beyond the Numbers

Stepping away from the never-ending statistics and polling data helps to give a more holistic view of the youth’s perceptions. As mentioned above, youth voters are policy-driven and tired of platitude after platitude without any sustained action. If elected officials, Republican or Democrat, won’t address the crises most important to us, we will support alternative candidates to challenge them in primary elections. This was the case in New York’s 14 District in 2018 and has also been gaining momentum in this cycle.

The exceedingly acute levels of partisanship witnessed in the past four years, which began festering far before then, have led to an action-adverse Congress. Young Republicans and Democrats alike want to see real problems addressed, debated, and decided upon. Unlike those before us, we won’t leave the decision making to our elders if they won’t take action in the best interest of future generations and global security.

With that said, I still believe those of us in this demographic need to call on our friends, family members, and colleagues of similar age to ensure their participation. If we become an active voting block, consistently showing up to the polls, we will elevate our concerns to the halls of Congress and through the walls of the White House. If we remain complacent, then nothing will fundamentally change. 

Innovative technologies and our forward-thinking mindsets allow us to spawn ideas that will be positive, not just for our generation, but for all. A meaningful political and economic debate is still possible in this country, as long as we are willing to make our voices heard and our votes count.

The Future is Ours

As the modern base of both parties slowly shifts to the growing younger generations, it will be our responsibility to push for systemic and meaningful change. This must include staying politically aware (beyond what we’re told to think), holding true to our issues-based voting, and inspiring others to join in the fight. In addition, we must usher in a new era of factual, investigative journalism that seeks to inform the public on the issues that matter most. Looking beyond this election and to the future, leadership will require the voices of the many and not just a few – as has been the case.

Unlike previous moments in American political history, when a grassroots movement achieves Presidential success, those who elected the leader must not sit on their hands. Electing a leader to the White House is the first step along a difficult road in gaining a righteous social system, political representation, and economic stability. As the new generation, who will increasingly make up the base of both parties, it is our responsibility to drive our respective parties in the direction that represents the real values we seek to uphold.

Artin is a Champlain College graduate with a degree in Management and Innovation. He is focused on examining and writing on smart cities, sociocultural, political, and economic topics.

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