Young voters can have a voice


By Annie Wheeler

Paige Sheppard

Young people (ages 18-29) have historically been the most underrepresented age demographic in every election for decades, yet we are the ones who have to live with the consequences of our politics for the longest.
In the 2016 presidential election, over 70 percent of Americans ages 60 and up exercised their right to vote while only about 42 percent of voters 18-29 did the same.
As college students, we are the next generation to encounter the harsh economic realities of adult life. While the majority of us are already experiencing the stress of student loans, we also have health insurance, mortgages, car payments and daily life expenses to look forward to in the coming years after graduation. 
Every American should care about electing someone who reflects their beliefs and meets their needs, but young people should especially.
While the importance of a presidential election may not seem obvious or pressing at this age, just remember how radically life can change in just a few years. Most 16-year-olds, for instance, are concerned with driver’s ed and the SATs, while most 20-year-olds face full-time jobs and tens of thousands of dollars charged in student loans. It’s possible that you may care much more about how politics affects you after graduation than you do now. You won’t want to regret passing up an opportunity to demonstrate your opinion.
The Illinois primary election is on March 17, which is just a few days away. Participation in this election is sometimes lower than the presidential election because some voters view it as less important. Participation in the primaries is crucial because the results determine which candidates names will make it to the presidential ballot.
Being away at school and juggling work and extracurriculars on top of classes can make it challenging for students to make it to the voting box the day of elections. However, anyone can request an absentee ballot and early voting is a convenient alternative too.
What makes the youth vote even more powerful is the fact that we have the largest population among voters. Millennials and Gen-Z voters make up nearly 40 percent of the voter population (10 percent more than the Boomer generation). claims, “Millennials have been credited with the decisive vote in the 2012 election of Barack Obama for a second term as president; Obama won 67 percent of the national youth vote.”
Gen-Z voters have the power to greatly sway the outcome of the upcoming election in November if we become as serious about voting as the Boomers have been for years. If we continue to be as apathetic about voting as we historically have been, we must be okay with our future being decided by people 40+ years older than us. 
If you are not already registered to vote, it takes only a few minutes to do so online. The bottom line is that there is no reason why you should neglect this constitutional right to participate in politics and have your views be represented to the nation. If you think your vote doesn’t matter because you are just one person —look at how much one person can affect this country such as the president alone.
I’m not trying to tell anyone who to vote for — all I want is for you to vote.
Cartoon by Annie Wheeler/Observer Staff