The Weight of the Youth Vote

January 20, 2021 /

We’Ced Youth Media · The Weight of the Youth Vote

It’s just one vote. Right? At one point in time, I’m sure we’ve all heard it, said it, or at least thought it. The idea that our one vote in every election, whether that be county-wide, state-wide, or nation-wide, could mean anything sounds a little bit crazy. In other words, that thick piece of paper destined to decide so many important decisions has so many layers, and it’s not just a matter of checking one name over the other.

One young person, who wishes to remain anonymous, was raised young to remain civically active explains, “It was always encouraged to go out and vote from my parents so my voice could be heard. My parents encourages me really made me wanna get out there and vote. I couldn’t wait until I turned 18 to vote in the primary election once I turned 18 in January.”

But the 2020 election was different for many. This year, according to an article on Bloomberg, around 161 million people voted. That’s a lot compared to other elections in the past.

But with the amount of voters increasing, youth may have been an important part of the 2020 election. And a number of reasons could come into play for this: is voting not as difficult? Is it now on young people’s minds?

According to the US Census, people aging as 18-29 years old, only had 46.1 percent of their voting-eligible population vote in 2016. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University reported that 52-55% of voting-eligible youth cast a vote in 2020.

In Merced County, 18.46% of total registered voters 15 days before the 2020 general election were between the ages of 17.5 to 25. Young people were the second highest group of registered voters in Merced County. 19.38% of total voters were between the ages of 26 to 35.

In 2016, 18.70% of registered voters between the ages of 17.5 to 25 were registered 15 days before the general election, which was the highest group of registered voters at the time.

So things like measures and propositions, the electoral college, presidential candidates, and the difference between direct primary and primary elections were researched and talked about. Jessie, an 18 year old from Merced, explains her attitude when it comes to picking a candidate, “You can hope that the politician you pick does what’s good so I really hope that it turns out better than this last presidency.”

She’s not the only one either. Aliyah Moreno, another 18 year old from Merced, holds strong on optimism and the right given in sharing your voice.

“I think we should have someone who wants the good of the people, and by the people, I mean everyone, not someone who just wants the good for one side or prefers to be on the left or right when it comes to Republican and Democrat.”

The anonymous young person shares a similar opinion, saying, “I think everybody should have the right to choose their candidate and their party and everybody should be respected for their choices and what they believe in.”

There was also the huge shift seen mainly online, as the pandemic forced many to remain active with the internet, even if they already had been before.

The anonymous person explains, “I think social media had a huge impact on this year’s election turnout because people were sharing their voices through Instagram and Snapchat. Snapchat and Instagram encouraged people to vote and then people’s friends [saw] their friends voting [which made] them want to get out and vote.

But social media didn’t show to be everything. Jessie believes it really comes down to action.

“I know a lot of people are social media activists… but when it comes time to vote they don’t even register or you know, vote. Just simply vote and you know that’s the one thing [you] have control over. [You] have no control over anything else.”

That’s where many issues shined through. Jessie says, “I feel like this election was a lot more than just voting for a president or voting for a political party. It wasn’t about being a Democrat or a Republican, it was really about life. It was about people’s livelihoods being affected and all these policies.

Jessie touches on immigration, something she holds close to her heart:

“I feel like we would just maybe have a better shot and I’m not saying that Biden’s like this holy man who’s going to pardon all illegal immigrants and that he’s going to be everyone’s savior and he’s going to understand everyone’s story as to why they do the things that they do but I just feel like he was a better bet because we all pretty much know where Trump stands on a lot of immigration issues.”

Climate change was also crucial. Moreno explains her viewpoint, “Global change is something that is important to me and I think a lot of Gen Z‘s are devoted to hopefully trying to retract time.”

A huge battle that has continued for young people has been the fight against systemic injustice and changing the beliefs and policies that have been needed to change for so long. This young person explains what they witnessed, “I think the whole social justice movement and the Black Lives Matter movement had a major impact on the voting turnout. I think that influenced a lot of people to go out and vote and share their beliefs and go to all the protests and rallies.”

Another opinion on voting directed towards the electoral college, with many  claiming it doesn’t count anyone’s votes, but that could be far from the truth. In terms of the the presidential election, one may be correct if they reside in certain states like California which has been known to vote blue every year without fail since 1992. Jessie talks about the way she sees it:

“Technically, you don’t really directly [vote]. [Voting] doesn’t mean everything’s going to change now and things are going to be good, everything you had in mind that you want to happen is going to happen. You can’t control what the politician you elect into office [is going to do].”

And so it stands: voices. Whether that be in the form of tweeting, sharing, posting, or talking about what you believe in, young people voted this year, many for the first time and for many different reasons. But no matter what they chose to vote on, one thing is clear: everyone wants a change for the better.

Jessie says, “Hopefully he takes our vote and says okay you guys elected me because I said all these things. That’s all I am is hopeful. Everything is so crazy and hectic so all we can do is hope things will change.”

So it is in the new president Joe Biden, that one word is instilled: hope.

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