Shifting the Vote with the Youth


Joe Buglewicz

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, voters head to the polls at the Enterprise Library in Las Vegas. A Nevada political group plans to revise and resubmit a proposed state constitutional amendment aimed at creating an appointed commission to redraw legislative and U.S. congressional voting districts. The president of the League of Women Voters of Nevada says the filing could come as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Judge James Russell issued an order last week in Carson City saying that Fair Maps Nevada PAC can re-file an amended petition with revisions that would pass constitutional muster. (AP Photo/Joe Buglewicz, File)

Paige Oatney, Staff Writer

At the age of 18, every teenager leaves their childhood and begins their journey into adulthood, bringing new rights and responsibilities to their everyday lives. One of the most pivotal rights being their newfound ability to vote in elections, something that everyone should be wanting to do, right? So why is it that these young adults have the smallest voter turnout when it comes time for elections? 

During WWII, many people advocated to get the voting age lowered to 18 since 18-year-olds were being drafted into the war. They thought that since they can be included on the battlefield, they can also join in on politics. It wasn’t until 1971 when these activist won after months of protests following the Vietnam War They advocated that since they could die for their country, they should have a say in what happens. From there, the 26th amendment of the constitution lowered it from 21 to 18. The following year in the 1972 election, 55% of 18-24 year-olds went to vote. That record has never been broken since. 

In this day and age, there are more teenage political activists than ever which should equal a higher rate of them going to vote. But, since the 1972 election, numbers have only decreased for primary elections. Teenagers have shied away from the polls, some for unknown reasons, but others felt unprepared or even scared to finally get to have a say in the government. While there are informational classes in school, a lot of them aren’t required or simply don’t cover all of the information needed. 

In Ohio, it is required that all high school students take one semester of a government class in order to graduate. This class does go over what our government is and also how the election process works, but it’s the decision of the teacher to bring in the information about how these students can register and be apart of them. Youth Service America stated that if the young adults of America are not encouraged to vote by their teachers, peers, or family, then they are less likely to participate. 

Out of all of these factors, though, one of the largest reasons why teenagers aren’t going out to vote is the fact that they are simply too busy with school, or any activities they might have after it. 34 percent of young adults said that they had conflicting schedules, according to Youth Service America. The polls in Ohio are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., yet still students can’t find there way to make it there. This has caused the proposal to let school off early, or to not have it all together on November second in order to promote a higher voter turnout. The other side of the argument, though, states that since these students are counted as adults they should have the responsibility to get to the polls before they close. 

More recently than ever, there has been a push to get any young adults to practice their right of voting. In the past 2018 midterm election, the 18-24 year old age range was targeted more than ever in social media campaigns to go out to the polls. Many activists groups were encouraging students to register including survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting as well as many celebrities. And when all was said and done, the results were astounding. There was a 78 percent increase from 2014 to 2018, contributing to the highest midterm election voter turnout in over 50 years. 

The question at the moment, though, is if these trends continue into the primaries. In a country more divided than ever, the goal is to unite the youth and inspire them to take action for letting their voices be heard. More and more groups are being formed to show awareness, including ones at OLHS and other areas around Columbus. Now it’s only a waiting game to see if these notions will be put into movement to rock the vote and change expectations for elections to come.