The Olympus

Youth voting in America

Parker Teters, Reporter

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As many of students begin to come of age to vote they may begin to get increasing pressure to start researching and getting ready to participate in the historically important activity of voicing opinions through the election government officials, though perhaps this may be changing as worry begins to mount at the low voting percentage of young adults in the United States.

In 2016, an estimated 24 million young adults from 18-29 years old voted in the presidential election. At first may this seem as though it’s perhaps an healthy, solid number of youths voicing their opinion in the polls til you consider that the current estimated population of 18-29 year olds is estimated to be 54 million, or a voting average of only about 55.5% of young adults voting, though there were estimates as low as 46.1% from sources such as census.gov. Compared to the estimated voting rates of those ages 65 and older clocking in at 70.9%, these numbers seem foreboding at worst and perhaps paltry at best. But why are the numbers so far apart? There seems to be many students and youth nowadays interested in politics with multiple political clubs at Olympia High School alone. Michael Schaefer – the AP Government teacher at Olympia High School says, “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing in youth today”. Schaefer thinks that the best way to increase the number of young voters in America is to give them attention, though the only way he believes that can be done is via more active young voters, this might be seen as a catch 22. William Ward – a sophomore, thinks that we just need to show them just how important voting can be. “Show them the importance of what they’re voting for”, he says, it’s the best way is for them to know the importance of what they’re doing.

The voting percentage difference may seem to so large is also in part to the higher voting rates of older people furthering the gap, but what about the older generations voting rates? Is this is a continuous trend having percentage rates climb with age til the voting rate is similar to the one before? According to census.gov, the percentage of 18-29 year olds voting has only changed 12.4% in the past 36 years with the lowest point being only 39.6% in 1996 and 52.0% in 1992. Brad Underland – a teacher at Olympia High School says that at a young age he voted due to being unsure of the draft, saying “Yes I did vote, partly because my peers in that decade still felt the question of whether the draft would be instituted”, and situations such as this ring true. If you look back over yearly voting rates you can see definitive rises and falls of voting rates over the years that trend throughout all age groups. 1996 was the lowest year for 28-29 year old voters, but it was also the lowest for 30-44 year olds and the second lowest years for 45-64 year olds and those 65 and older in the past 36 years. Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, 1992 was the highest voting rates for young adults since 1980, but it was also the highest voting rates for all ages since 1980. So voting rates are impacted from not only age, but also social trends and events year to year.

Voting has always been held at a high importance, it’s the easiest way to make our voices present to those who decide on the key balances of democracy through conservative and liberal practices, though it cannot be denied that at the moment the youth are severely underrepresented. “Our democracy depends on it” said Schaefer, and many do hold this to be self evident, that voting is the true voice of the people translated into government action. Currently, one of the things this country does need is a strong, healthy population of young voters.

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