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.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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