The Gen Z Take On Voting & The Electoral College

As with every election, one of the questions on people’s minds regarding the upcoming 2020 election is will the younger generation turn out to vote? According to students at American University, the answer is a resounding yes. 

Kyla Blazer, a member of the organization Settle for Biden, is driving home to Hershey Pennsylvania from DC to vote in the upcoming election. “I’m super excited to vote,” said Kyla. “I was obsessed with Obama as a 9 year-old. I was really upset I couldn’t vote in 2016. For me this election is everything.”

 “I’m going to vote by mail and bring my ballot to a drop box. 85% of my district votes by mail and has done so for the past several years but I am taking mine to a drop box just to be safe,” said Lauren Kelly, who is working as a fellow with Brynne Kennedy for Congress in California. 

The doubt that older generations have about their younger counterparts voting is not unreasonable however. The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth turnout in the world. “If you look at the way other countries vote, we have a lot of voter apathy here which means we’re not voting in the quantities that other countries are,” said Lauren. 

Recounting her first-hand experience with voter apathy she explained, “We have to remember that there are extreme efforts put in place to stop people from voting. In one of my classes, someone mentioned that in North Carolina, the Trump campaign was putting out ads encouraging people not to vote. That’s part of the effort to delegitimize mail in voting and to get people to think that it’s too hard and they shouldn’t vote.”   election ballot with red and blue masks Photo by Tiffany Tertipes from Unsplash

In some cases, though they might be voting, not everyone is excited about their vote.“I think I’m voting just in case. I don’t really believe that voting changes much, however, if there is a chance that I can, I would rather not waste it,” said Chloe Li, a senior at American University, explaining, “I am a New York state resident so it doesn’t really matter what I vote in the presidential elections because it’ll go blue no matter what but I would rather vote because it really is not that hard as opposed to not doing it and risking something bad happening.” 

And Chloe is not alone. Prachi Jhawar, a junior at American University, said that “with the electoral college, it’s a lot harder to feel like my vote counts when I know that my state is one that the presidents are not really looking at or approaching to try to ask us what we want in a president.” 

So what do these young voters think about the electoral college? The answer is simple -- they stand firmly against it. “The electoral college is built and progressed on a system of racism to keep white people in power and it's absolutely ridiculous to say that it has democratic value or supports democracy and it’s time to take these systems out of the framework of our country,” said Lauren. 

“[The electoral college] was created because government officials did not trust citizens to make a decision and I still think that they don’t trust citizens to make a decision but I think it’s about time that citizens get to make that decision themselves. I want my vote to count as much as somebody from Wyoming,” said Prachi. Addressing the danger of the narrative presented by this system she added, “The electoral college traps people into the ideology that every state is a generalized state and all the people living there have the same story and concerns which is not true and I think the abolishment of the electoral college would allow presidents to actually care about every state.” 

“This country created its own issues by expanding into territory that shouldn’t be theirs and then when people decided to move to coastal areas where business and jobs are, they decided that those people, even if they are in the millions and the majority of the country, don’t matter as much as the four people who live in Wisconsin. And I’m not saying that Wisconsin and their needs aren’t important, I'm saying that it's an equity issue so it is time to get rid of the electoral college,” said Chloe. 

Given the growing mistrust of a system that many believe has failed them, young voters looking to make change have a long road ahead of them but they are not giving up any time soon. 

When asked why she is voting, Lauren had this to say: “It's not just about the presidential election, it's about everything that’s going to be on the ballot. Maybe my vote for President doesn’t matter but my vote for my representative matters. We don’t do a good job of engaging participants in our local democracy, but our town budgets are important. Two years ago, we voted to increase our property taxes by just a little bit and we got P.E. and art funded at our school. If you’re not paying attention and if you’re not voting for these things, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Our power isn’t centralized in our federal government, it's dispersed. We have to look at every election and every seat and we have to do what we can.” 

People standing inside of blue material voter polls Photo by Morning Brew from Unsplash But is voting enough? Not according to Chloe. “Voting is not enough. At this point, most people in our generation know that the system is either broken or it was not designed to work in the first place. You can't just vote because you can't work within a system that wasn’t meant to work for most people. For a lot of AU students, they think that voting and telling everyone to vote is enough while there are communities who work every day because it isn’t. They have to work to make sure their community is taken care of, that their people are taken care of because voting doesn’t work for everyone and it doesn’t fix all the problems, in fact it doesn’t fix most problems.” 

Speaking of the current generation of young voters, she went on to say “I think our generation is doing more than past generations but in the past few generations, the people who are doing all the work are usually black indigenous people so I don’t want to generalize and say that past generations haven’t done enough. For a lot of people in our generation, we try to generalize by saying that the people in past generations haven’t done enough. It’s that they have done enough and suffered consequences of doing so.” 

So where does that leave us today? Despite the growing belief that our system is failing us, they stand by voting -- a step in the right direction to bringing about the changes they wish to see in our country. “No matter where you’re from, you should go out and vote,” said Kyla firmly. Unsplash   “If you have the privilege to vote in this country – well it’s the right to vote but it’s not expanded to all citizens – if you’re able to vote, you absolutely have to vote. It’s the most important thing you can do. I can call as many people as I want and talk to them about voting for democrats but if they don’t want to vote, that call was meaningless. Those calls only matter if people are voting,” said Lauren. 

Though there is much to accomplish and our generation is faced with a seemingly sisyphean task as they try to change the world, the message these young voters are trying to put across is clear: do your part during this election.


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