The repeated narrative in our country is that young voters do not vote because we don’t care. The truth is that we do care, particularly about issues such as fighting climate change, addressing the student loan debt crisis, combating police brutality and ensuring everyone has access to affordable healthcare. In fact, we are casting ballots in higher numbers and becoming a powerful voting block.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, Gen Z-ers, millennials and Gen X-ers made history by outvoting Baby Boomers. The 2016 election represented the first time that voters under the age of 50 cast the majority of votes. In 2018, turnout among 18 to 29-year-olds was at a generational high of 36%, up from 20% in 2014. This was the largest increase for any age group.
As a nation, we should be celebrating the fact that more young Americans are exercising their constitutional right to vote. Instead, we’re seeing states across the country enacting laws to restrict this fundamental right.
Since 2010, over two dozen states have passed laws designed to restrict voting rights. These laws have specifically targeted Black, Latinx and student voters. More recently, the battleground states of Texas, Florida and Wisconsin have enacted laws to limit student voting. Texas has shut down polling sites on college campuses, Florida is trying to block on-campus early voting and Wisconsin is subjecting student IDs to arbitrary requirements that do not apply to any other eligible forms of identification.
As a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation, I’ve witnessed firsthand the hurdles that young adults face when voting. States like Ohio and Texas do not accept college IDs for voting. Some states require a utility bill or a student ID with an address on it. For students living in campus dorms, utility bills are not available and most student IDs do not have addresses on them. Additionally, many polling places are not accessible by public transportation and many students do not have cars, especially low-income students. These challenges are deliberate and in direct response to our increasing turnout and strength.
As we approach the 2020 election, it is crucial that we understand our power and use it to bring about change on the issues that are impacting our lives, such as education, healthcare, taxes and other social and economic issues. As Gen Z-ers and millennials, we’re facing major crises and we cannot allow states to stop us from voting.
Here are some proactive steps that you can take to help protect your vote:
1. Figure out now where your polling place is.
2. If you are a college student, decide now where you plan to vote. Home or at your college or university?
3. Decide how you will vote. In-person, by mail, early? Research deadlines for early voting or vote by mail.
4. Research what documentation, if any, you need to vote.
5. Visit vote.org. It allows you to find your polling place, check your registration status, register to vote, view a sample ballot, get election alerts and request absentee ballots.
6. Get involved with an organization that is fighting voter suppression like The Andrew Goodman Foundation, where I am a Vote Everywhere Ambassador. Visit andrewgoodman.org to learn more about our work and how to get involved.
The 2020 election is too important for us to let states silence us. It’s time for us to fight back and take ownership of our democracy.