The Importance of Driving Out the Youth Vote

Steven Makino, Staff Writer

As the 2022 Midterm Elections are rapidly approaching, Congressional and Senate candidates on both sides of the aisle are solidifying their bases in every way possible in order to ensure that they make it across the finish line come November. Indeed, this midterm cycle in particular is geared to be one of those most important ones in modern American politics, as not only will this determine which party holds control of a current evenly-divided Congress, but it will also serve as a strong indicator of how the 2024 elections will play out. As such, this year’s slate of candidates hopes to gain ground with as many voters as possible by attempting to reach out to a voting group notorious for having the lowest turnout rate: the youth vote. 

It is no secret that eligible voters under 30 are the least likely to wait at the polls to cast a ballot or to even send in a mail-in ballot, as this has been the case for a while now. However, following the 2016 election cycle, youth votes have been significantly on the rise as candidates adjusted their platforms to keep up with the times we now live in. 

According to data gathered by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the 2018 midterms saw about 28% of young voters casting a ballot in some form, more than double the percentage of the 2014 midterms. Likewise, the 2020 presidential election saw half of eligible young voters casting a ballot, up 11 points from the last presidential election and one of the highest rates of youth electoral participation since the ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971. From political memes and news pages on Instagram to the rising popularity of political podcasts and conference events, it is clear that the youth vote is on the minds of both political parties as they hope to continue this upward trend this year. 

This is great news and a trend that should be celebrated by all, regardless of political affiliation. The many freedoms and opportunities granted to us, including the right to vote, were ones that were fought for by the Founding Fathers and the many soldiers that believed in land founded on the premise of liberty. As such, voting should not be taken for granted, and it should be a process where every eligible voter participates, as it is your way of voicing concerns so that they may be considered. In addition, while one vote may not seem like it will make any difference at all, this is far from the case. Especially now where the growing political divide seems to have no end in sight, the days of an electoral Ronald Reagan-like victory are far in the past. As shown in the last few years, most notably in 2020 with former President Donald Trump only being about 200,000 votes short in three key states that would have the counterproductive mentality of your vote being worthless is far from the reality. 

Going beyond the civic duty to vote, many of the issues that we find ourselves confronted with are ones that will primarily impact the next generation. Issues such as abortion, climate change policies, big tech influence and censorship guidelines, healthcare and several more are ones that will be left up to the next generation of leaders to solve. Even the most apolitical people find themselves impacted by at the very least one of these issues, and as such, it should be the voices of younger voters that are willing to speak out on these issues and work towards potential solutions. However, both registering to vote in conjunction with making an informed decision based on some amount of research on key issues is what makes for a healthy democracy.

Oftentimes when I am out, whether I am walking around campus or even back in my hometown, I hear people around my age complain about how the government is useless or how they do not seem to ever get anything meaningful done nowadays. Believe me, this is a sentiment that I more or less feel as well, but these same people are also ones that are likely to not cast a ballot at all. I have several friends that fit into this description, and some are not even registered to vote. It truly baffles me as to why this is the case. I get that politics is a fringe topic, and it may not seem like something that I want to talk about in public, and that is totally fine. Voting does not need to be a public activity, and no one has to know how you vote or where you stand on hot-button issues. However, if you are one to complain about paying taxes or high inflation jacking up prices of common household items, it may be worth knowing the fundamentals facts surrounding these issues at the very least and from there create your own opinions and choose who you feel will best represent your concerns in D.C.

I am happy that Villanova is already ahead of the game when it comes to helping to drive up youth voter participation, as there are several events that help students navigate the voter registration process. Helping to encourage in-person voting by having shuttles the day of the midterm elections is definitely an initiative that will see students show up to make their voices heard in the state of Pennsylvania this year. 

However, beyond efforts to allow students to get to the polls, I hope to see voter enthusiasm increase as we approach election day. Regardless of party affiliation or political beliefs, I hope that in this very important midterm cycle that everyone makes their voices heard at the ballot box.