After talking to friends and peers following last Tuesday’s midterm elections, I reached a general consensus that very few of them had voted. Before knowing the statistics on my age demographics and voting expectancy rates, I was surprised at the lack of enthusiasm expressed. Since this midterm election was the first legally I had been allowed to vote in, I was informed and excited to vote.
However, my participation in the midterm election puts me in the minority of my age group. In the last midterm election, less than 25% of 18-29 year olds voted.
My question is why? As John Locke points to, in his social contract, Second Treatise of Government, when we don’t participate actively in our government, we are idly submitting to “laws…living quietly, and enjoying privileges” for no further purpose than the protection provided for by a social contract. Locke argues “Nothing can make any man (subjects of members of that commonwealth), but his actually entering into it by positive engagement, and express promise and compact. This is that, which I think, concerning the beginning of political societies, and that consent which makes any one a member of any.” To become a member of society and a withholder of the social contract to the fullest extent, Locke suggests we must participate by promise and engagement.
A number of reasons contribute to the lack of youth participation. First, many young voters feel uninformed and unqualified to make a decision. While stigma pertaining to young voters is often perpetuated in the media, our generation, the Millinials, is in fact reported to be “more engaged and knowledgable about political and economic issues than the generations before them.” Additionally, Millennials have all the resources at their fingertips to assist in making an informed decision.
In addition to having the resources to be informed voters, our generation also has the duty to be. We are fortunate enough to live in a nation, under a social contract, that allows us the right to express our opinion in the form of a vote. Other nations exist where youth die for the right a great percentage of us take for granted.
Along with this right we must not take for granted, we have a civic duty to our own generation’s future. Reports have proven tendency to vote increases in relation to the likelihood of homeownership, marriage, and stable income, suggesting aspects of life that signify adulthood provoke greater participation. However, a great deal of issues such as education reform, war politics, reproductive rights and healthcare reform are targeted at the younger generation. Not only should we vote to have a say in issues effecting our generation, but in issues effecting the future of the country today’s youth will one day be leading.
Although it may seem like, at our age, we do not have the influence to make a change, there are over 75 million Millennials, a size that rivals the other great demographic, the baby boomers. Already proven to possess the potential to mobilize “In the 2012 election, youth voters were the deciding factor in Obama’s victories in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.” According to this Huffington Post article, “if it wasn’t for young voters, Obama may very well have lost the election.”
The youth vote is powerful, important, and according to Locke, necessary to fully belong to society. Not only is it a right, but it is a duty.