One of our most, and many would argue, the most valuable rights as citizens of a democracy is our right to vote. It gives us a voice in the direction our elected representatives steer our country. Unfortunately, historically young voters are underrepresented due to their low voting turnout. This came as a shock to me being a young voter myself. Growing up in California I was excited about getting the chance to vote, to have a voice as it were. However, this is clearly not the case for all potential young voters.
Young voter turnout has historically been disproportionately lower than all other voting groups. In California alone, as indicated in the California Civic Engagement Project, conducted by UC Davis during the 2012 elections only 50.9% of registered voters aged 18-24 and 55.5% of registered voters aged 25-34 voted, as opposed to 67.9% - 84.55% for all other older age groups. Another problem, is these numbers also indicate a 10% reduced voter turnout from the 2008 elections, despite an increase in voter registration of 14% over the 2008 elections (Romero).
So we’ve established disproportionately lower young voter turnout, why is this a problem? Well let’s start by examining the Oxford Dictionary definition of democracy: “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives” (Oxford Dictionaries). Ideally these elected representatives are elected to represent the interests of their constituency’s. These constituencies consist of people from all different walks of life and of various ages, including young voters, all forming a melting pot of interests. When considering elections and making legislative decisions our representative’s take into account this whole population of voters. After all, what incentive do our representatives have to legislate the interests of those that don’t vote? Furthermore, that’s assuming that our representatives are even aware of our interests. When we don’t vote we aren’t making our interests known and that’s really the key part of the problem. With young voter turnout being disproportionately lower, the impact we have on our government policy’s also disproportionate, or as world renowned Political Scientist Dr. Arend Lijphart puts it “unequal participation means unequal influence.” (Lijphart).
The three main factors effecting young voter turnout are: Civic Education, Political Polarization, and Voter Registration.
Civic Education’s important because it helps familiarize young people with our electoral and government processes, as noted in The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement study.
Some of the existing strategies for civic education are strongly supported by research and deserve to be maintained and expanded. For instance, teaching young people explicitly about politics and
elections is related to higher levels of political knowledge;
thus schools should be...