Young people have always been the driving force in making change. Many of the most important movements in American history would not have been possible without the action of young people. The Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War protests, the fight against gun violence, and many other movements have been fueled by the youth. Despite the youth’s action throughout history, the voter turnout of ages 18-29 is notoriously always the lowest. But this year, we turned out in record numbers.
A study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University measured youth voter turnout this year was at 53 percent, increasing by 8 percent from the 2016 election. This may have been the highest youth voter turnout in over 100 years, and the youth voted overwhelmingly for Biden. To young people, Biden is the candidate and the president who will make change. Many young voters claim they “settled” for Biden, whether they typically lean more left or right of his views, but felt that he was the better candidate in comparison to Trump.
Georgia’s youth had the largest contribution out of all youth votes in the country, making up 21 percent of the entire vote in the state. Georgia is not typically a battleground state and votes red, but this year, it flipped blue for the first time in decades. This is no coincidence: the high youth turnout and flipping blue go hand in hand. Georgia’s youth would not have come out to vote had it not been for grassroots organizing by groups like the New Georgia Project, Campus Vote Project, Students for 2020 and Opportunity Youth United. Young organizers, particularly young BIPOC young organizers, made flipping Georgia possible by registering people to vote and encouraging them to make choices that would benefit justice and human rights.
While the youth made history this election, in the past, youth voter turnout has been particularly low. The idea that many young people are apathetic is not necessarily a false one, but this statement fails to mention why many of them are apathetic. Our education system doesn’t lend itself to teaching students about modern politics or why their vote is important. Many history classes simply focus on rote memorization of dates and wars without discussing the meanings and impacts of the political movements that have influenced their lives today, and the ongoing movements that continue to influence their lives. A lot of young people that are given the proper education on civics or are directly impacted by politics themselves are highly motivated and passionate about taking political action. Our education needs to get those who are more privileged to understand why politics are so important, and encourage them to vote.
Additionally, it’s not necessarily easy for young people to vote. Our society today encourages young people to go to college– sometimes it is even described as the only way to become successful. With so many students in college because of this societal norm, they are not home to vote. This means they must make the effort themselves to get an absentee ballot and apply for one. Some states make this process unnecessarily difficult, requiring long forms and sometimes not even approving applications for absentee voting. Many schools also do not equip students with the resources to register to vote or show them how to apply for an absentee ballot.
The youth has constantly been written off as lazy and unmotivated, but they are some of the greatest changemakers in history. In this election, they were changemakers again in their high voter turnout as well as in organizing the vote. In places like Georgia, the youth allowed for a consistently red state to flip blue. Let this be a message: young people are strong, motivated, and courageous. Let’s not write them off because our system does not encourage them.
Photos: Her Campus Media