Why Are Millennials Not Voting?

So we know that millennials tend to refrain from casting a vote on election day, but the 64 thousand dollar question remains: why? Why is it that only 8% of eligible students on my college campus voted in the 2014 election? Why is my generation not participating in politics? Based on a series of interviews with college students, I’ve narrowed it down to two (very different) reasons.

  1. External restrictions
  2. Apathy

External Restrictions

Part of the millennial voter participation problem isn’t due to millennials at all. Our local and state laws may play a large role in suppressing the youth vote.

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Image Credit: MySouthlakeNews.com

Alynna Knaub, a junior Biology and Religion major at Furman University, told me that she didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election. While she holds a number of political opinions and supported Hilary Clinton in the recent election, she attributes her inability to vote to the inconvienient absentee voter process. She says of her home state, “I wasn’t aware that Texas required absentee voters to apply for a ballot weeks in advance. I was disappointed when I found out I missed the deadline.” Knaub looks forward to voting in the 2018 midterm elections now that she is aware of the Texas absentee process.

Knaub is not alone in her frustrations. According to The No Vote By Mail Project, absentee voting can be problematic for reasons including:

  • privately owned absentee ballot counting machines
  • high costs associated with absentee voting system
  • a lengthy application process
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Outside the Greenville County Courtroom. From left to right: Myself, Luke Hoover (visitor), Benjamin Longnecker (Plaintiff), Sulaiman Ahmad (Plaintiff), Katherine West (Plaintiff).

Alongside of the grievances with the absentee voting requirements, Furman students have also been involved in a lawsuit against Greenville County on the basis of voter discrimination. Before the lawsuit, if you tried to register to vote in Greenville County with a student address, there were a number of hoops you had to jump through to eventually be able to vote. For example, students attempting to register were vetted with invasive questionnaires and interviews. Some students were simply turned away.  In October of 2016, the three student Plaintiffs were successful. A judge required the Greenville County Board of Voter Registration and Elections to treat college students the same as Greenville residents. Thanks to the initiative of my fellow students, I believe Furman students will find it easier to register to vote in South Carolina.

Apathy

As much as I would like to believe that it’s not my generation’s fault, I must acknowledge the fact that some people my age simply don’t care to vote.

Another student I spoke with believes that our generation is too apathetic toward voting.

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Image credit: The Odyssey Online

Emily Harris, a junior Political and Asian Studies major at Furman, mentioned that “people may not be willing to go out of their way to vote because they don’t care about politics.”

Katherine West, a Furman Political Science major and plaintiff in the lawsuit, shares the same sentiment about youth voter participation. As happy as she is with the outcome of the lawsuit, she believes that our generation lacks motivation to vote. West attributes millennial voter apathy to a lack of political efficacy. Of our generation, she says, “We like immediacy. It’s hard for people to see and feel the immediate effect of their vote. If young adults don’t feel like their vote matters, they won’t bother taking the time to vote.”

Gabriel Arce, a recent graduate from Coastal Carolina University, unapologetically exemplifies this phenomenon. Arce refused to vote in the 2016 election because of the candidates. He remarked, “They are all crooked in my opinion. Not much will change.”

When I asked Arce if he thinks his vote would matter, he curtly replied, “Hell no.”

 

Want to know more about millennial voter participation? Watch this video on student voter participation at Furman University.

 

Sources and Media Credit

BigThink.com

CASE NO.: 2016-CP-23 Lawsuit

Greenville Online September 22, 2016

Greenville Online October 7, 2016

Header Image Credit: Shannon Cherney

Huffington Post

Image of Plaintiffs: Shannon Cherney

Video: Shannon Cherney

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National and Local Politics in Action

The current political climate is writ with activism. President Trump and his administration have sparked a number of protests, marches, and rallies. Protests like The Women’s March, the Native Nations Rise March, and The Students for Solidarity Rally exemplify how we can advocate for ourselves with something as big as an international following or as local as a community rally. And both can make a profound impact.

The Women’s March

The largest single-day protest in United States history.

On January 21st, 2017, 673 marches took place worldwide, on all seven continents. In Washington D.C. alone, 500,000 people gathered to advocate for legislation reform on issues such as women’s rights, healthcare, and immigration. The protestors were concerned with newly inaugurated President Trump’s seemingly anti-women sentiment. Partisan issues aside, the best part of the Women’s Marches was the fact that each march in the United States was completely peaceful.

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Nearly 100,000 people attended The Women’s March in London, England on January 21st 2017– the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency. 

The Native Nations March

Spanned generations.

I had the pleasure of attending the Native Nations Rise March  on March 10th, 2017. Members of Native American tribes across the United States gathered in Washington D.C. to march down Pennsylvania Avenue, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The march was led in part by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which argues that the 1,172 mile pipeline threatens drinking water, crosses sacred lands, and was approved by the Trump administration without proper consent. The protestors demanded an audience with the Trump administration believe the United States should pay more respect to tribal rights.

On a cold and sleety Friday morning, the protestors met in Judiciary Square, marched to

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The route the Native Nations protestors walked in Washington D.C on March 10th 2017. 

the front of the Trump Hotel, the White House, and eventually ended their march at the Washington Monument. The atmosphere was lively; Many people were dressed in feathers and bright colors, others were singing or chanting with drums. Everything smelled like incense. And at the end they gave the protestors pizza! I was amazed at the march’s diversity– both young and old showed up to advocate for tribal rights.

The Students for Solidarity Rally

At Furman University.

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Furman students and community members standing outside the library, listening to students speak about the Muslim ban. 

Students may not have voted in large numbers at Furman University, but they are starting to speak out against President Trump’s recent executive order that banned Muslim and refugees from seven countries. On February 15th, 2017, Furman students and members of the Greenville community gathered on the steps of the James B. Duke library to protest the ban. Although the number of protestors at Furman pales in comparison to that of the Women’s March or even the Native Nations March, it’s encouraging to see my generation voicing political opinions.

Even some students supporting President Trump’s executive order came to the library steps on February 15th.

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The Trump Supporters at the February 15th rally. Used with permission.

So What?

These three marches echo the influential protests like the 1963 March on Washington or the Take Back the Night protests in the 1790s. The Women’s March, the Native Nations March, and the Students for Solidarity Rally were not the first time individuals have spoken up about important issues. And if we keep up the political spirit, they will not be the last. As citizens, we have the right and the privilege to have our voices heard. So speak up about the issues on your mind because the world is listening.

 

Sources and Image Credit

Image of Women’s March in London from DailyMail.com

All other images from Shannon Cherney

History.com

Native Nations Rise

NBC News

Standing with Standing Rock

The Hill

The White House

Time.com

Wikipedia List of 2017 Women’s Marches

 

People who don’t vote: Furman University Case Study

I attend Furman University, a small, private liberal arts university in Greenville, South Carolina. Although the Politics and International Affairs department is quite large and includes an incredible faculty, politically involved students make up only a fraction of Furman’s campus.

You don’t have to take my word for it, there’s data.

The following graphic depicts Furman student’s voting statistics collected by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. The results show the percentage of Furman students who were eligible to vote and who actually voted int he 2012 and 2014 elections.

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Furman student voting rate data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement shows that a very low percentage of students vote.

So what?

First of all, consider the first percentage: 24% of eligible voters on my campus voted in the presidential election. That means that three quarters of the campus– people with interests, needs, and opinions– were silent. Think about what that would mean for the entire country? In 2012, President Obama won against his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, and 57.5% of those eligible in the country voted, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. If entire eligible population voted like Furman students, we could have very well had a different president for the past four years.

Second, the 2014 Furman voting results aren’t even in the double digits. Granted, midterm
elections are not as popularized as the presidential elections, but we might expect a campus full of academically rigorous students reach a percentage higher than 8%. I get it, voting for local politicians isn’t as culturally sexy as tweeting at Kim Kardashian. The thing is, Kim K. cannot directly affect your life. Your local government officials can by advocating on your behalf before Congress, expediting governmental processes when you need help quickly, or even allocating you government money you deserve.

In an earlier post, I included a slideshow of the public officials relevant to Greenville and South Carolina voters.

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Congressman Trey Gowdy at a press conference to discuss House Benghazi Committee.

Yesterday I asked one of my peers about Trey Gowdy, a Republican member U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s fourth district.  She had no idea who I was talking about. Why is that bad? I’ll give you three reasons.

  1. Greenville is in the fourth district, so Trey Gowdy is our congressman.
  2. He was a chairman of the House Benghazi Committee (said to have uncovered the Hilary Clinton email scandal).
  3. He came to Furman last semester.
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Congressman Trey Gowdy at Furman University, 2016

Why should you listen to me?

Because I’ve been there. I’ve been bored or annoyed with politics. But I’ve also been there. I worked in a congressional office for the 7th district of South Carolina. I have worked with congresspersons, their staffers, and their constituents. I have witnesses local government helping hard family or medical situations. I can tell you that it is possible for the government to be a positive influence in your life. All you have to do is get involved.

Sources and Image Credit

Bipartisan Policy Center

Forbes

Header Image: Sources from Steve Limentani, Slate, Mix 108, National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement

National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement

Image: Furman Voting Data used from independent study from NSLVE

Image: Gowdy Press Conference used from Crooks and Liars

Image: Gowdy at Furman used from Furman News

The Select Committee on Benghazi

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Millennial Political Participation: The Problem and the Solution(s)

We are the problem

Since the presidential election of 1964, U.S. citizens between the ages of 18-24 have had the lowest voter turnout.

 

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Graphic from the U.S. Census Bureau showing decrease in millennial voting patterns.

Nowadays, millennials tend to be apathetic towards voting and/or do not care about government at all. Resulting in desperate attempts like this:

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Advertisement for the Affordable Care Act

How I know

I live on a college campus that has an extremely low voter turnout. As a Political Science major, that’s embarrassing.  Fortunately, a few of my fellow Furman students recently won a lawsuit against oppressive voting restrictions toward college students. And although the presidental election has already passed, it’s not too early to get to know the local government players:

We are the solution; Participating in politics is not hard

The United States does not and should not make it difficult for its citizens to have a voice in politics. That voice usually includes voting. The right to vote is a fundamental principle that this country was founded upon. In order to vote citizens need to do three things:

  1. Turn 18
  2. Register
  3. Turn out
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Major News Channels

And what if you can’t meet step one? Being informed about politics is just as important. Talking about politics, watching news coverage, and asking questions about political actors or policies also count as political participation.

Participating in politics is not boring.

Find a issue that resonates with you. If you like hiking, think about get-

Greenpeace Condemns Brutal Police Clampdown On Peaceful Gezi Park Protest.
Green Peace Protest

ting involved in local environmental groups to improve parks and trails. If you’re into food, it might be worth knowing what types of things the FDA allows companies to put in their products. Or if you’re sick of how much money you make at your job, look into minimum wage laws in your state.

Participating in politics is not meaningless.

I’ve too often heard my friends say that their voice doesn’t count. That claim is ridiculous. Voting matters. Politics isn’t all Hillarys, Trumps and long bills that you hear your parents mention. Politics is the lake by your house. It’s the favorite teacher you had in high school. It’s your paycheck you get every two weeks. Politics are both large scale and small scale. We should not forget about our local government officials that work hard to provide us with the quality of life we want. So tell them!

You have a voice, speak.

 

Sources and Image Credit

Food and Drug Administration

Furman Newspaper

Greenville News

Image: Graphic from US Census Bureau

Image: ObamaCare advertisement from Factcheck.org

Image: Protest photo from GreenPeace.org

Image: New sources from TheWrap.com

Scholar Archives at OSU

Trey Gowdy web page

USA.gov

U.S. Department of Labor

 

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