M By Ed Day
any college students and young adults will not vote Nov. 5 because they do not believe politicians care about them. There is little evidence to prove otherwise.
As political campaigns crank into high gear, candidates will inundate the airwaves with advertisements about prescription drugs, Medicare and saving Social Security because senior citizens vote in record numbers. Issues such as K-12 education and property taxes will get their due to appeal to suburban families, another reliable voting block. But issues young people care about – whether they are personal freedoms, taxes, tuition hikes, housing policy, minimum wage, corrupt CEOs and politicians or unfair tariffs – will not receive much attention during campaigns until young adults become a reliable force on Election Day.
Politicians know that 18- to 30-year-olds make up 30 percent of possible voters, but only 13 percent show up at the polls – a fairly meager return for a candidate without unlimited funds.
And it’s not entirely the politicians’ fault. The candidates who care about our issues might not have the resources to find such a transient constituency with ever-changing addresses and phone numbers, which is critical to get out the vote efforts.
Regardless of who started this “cycle of neglect” – politicians don’t talk about young adults’ concerns because young adults don’t vote, and vice versa – the cycle can be broken if young people vote, regardless of party affiliation or ideology. College-aged people could be the deciding factor in close elections. Some political scientists have credited the aggressive student-voter outreach efforts in Madison, Wis., as the difference in a hotly contested congressional race in 2000. And Gov. Jesse Ventura has attributed his upset victory in 1998 to a large influx of young voters.
If a race is won by two percentage points after a large increase in younger voters, politicians will undoubtedly change their priorities. That’s why the YouthVote Coalition, a nonpartisan, nationwide nonprofit with a local chapter in the Twin Cities, is working with area organizations to simply increase voter turnout among 18- to 25-year-olds in the Twin Cities by reaching 50,000 people through voter education, voter registration and Get Out the Vote activities.
Though it sounds daunting, no individual needs to put forth a Herculean effort for the cumulative efforts to make a difference in the Nov. 5 election. There are three simple ways to assist our efforts:
– Register to vote. If you have never voted or have moved since you last voted, you need to register. As in previous years, YouthVote (sponsored this year by the Minnesota State University Student Association) voter registration efforts will take place at universities and colleges, voter education events such as debates and area events.
– Volunteer on a voter registration drive or Get Out the Vote phone bank. It could be as simple as sitting at the same voter registration table where you registered, which are strategically located in convenient, high-traffic venues such as student unions and local grocery stores. Get Out the Vote takes place after the Oct. 15 advance registration deadline and involves reminding registered voters of the upcoming election.
– Vote and help others vote. Again, this effort can be localized to your neighborhood, apartment or residence hall. Small measures such as reminding a friend they can register on Election Day, driving someone else to the polling place, or vouching for a neighbor in your precinct so they can vote.