Zoe Stratos | Staff Columnist
The 2020 presidential election is approaching fast with Election Day Nov. 3: a little less than a month away. As college students, we have the right to vote, and we should exercise that right when it’s due. With the constant evolution of our political climate and an upcoming election that is arguably one of the most important in history, we must step forward as the American youth and vote for our leader — no matter what party we align with.
Political activism among youth is at an all time high, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Generation Z and millennials are taking to the streets to advocate for what they believe in, but advocating isn’t going to elect the leader you ultimately want in office —only a vote can.
From this, a common misconception believed by the young vote population emerges: “My vote won’t matter.” However, that thought process could not be more wrong. From this idea, a mob mentality emerges in the minds of these new voters that they cannot sway an election, when in reality, the young vote matters the most. The young vote — including people of the ages 18-29 — make up a little over 16%of the current U.S. population, so every vote counts.
To get an idea of the importance of this vote, we have to look at President Barack Obama’s win over Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Up until the 2008 election, party affiliation among the youth had almost been split evenly, and young voter turnout was low. This all changed when President Obama took a different approach to campaigning: focusing on the youth.
At the end of the election, it was clear that the young vote is part of what put President Obama into office. According to a Pew Research study, 66% of those in the young voter category voted for him — a massive shift from that almost 50-50 split across party lines. On top of this massive shift, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total young voter turnout was a staggering 51%: one of highest turnouts ever.
After all of this progress toward a higher young voter turnout, the lack of participation remains despite knowing the young vote matters. The turnout hasn’t been where it needs to be within the last few years.
The young vote dipped in the 2012 presidential election, with a modest 45% turnout. After that, the 2016 presidential election rose slightly to 46.1% turnout.
Knowing all of this data, the young vote really can change the course of an election, whether through voting or choosing not to; however, it’s better to participate and have your voice heard. No one else is going to vote in the interest of young people, except young people themselves. After all, this 18-29 age range will be the most affected by governmental decisions within the near and far off future.
The key for young voters is to keep up to date on current events and all presidential candidates, regardless of party affiliation. It’s crucial to keep note of where politicians stand on environmental issues, college tuition issues, healthcare issues — the list goes on, as it mostly affects this young voter category. It’s better to vote for who you want in office now, than to wait until it’s too late to change policy.
With all of this in mind, voting is easier than ever before through the mail-in system, and online voter registration is available in Pennsylvania. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19, and the deadline to request a ballot by mail is (received by) Oct. 27. However, to ensure a spot in this year’s election, registration should be done as soon as possible; the deadline is fast approaching.
In a country all about the freedom to elect our officials, it’s time for the young vote to take the majority and make a statement — rather than just preaching.