The United States of America is no stranger to international criticism and ridicule when voter turnouts - the symbol of our free democracy - are well below the percentages seen in other developed countries. Three years ago during the 2012 Presidential Election, a mere 54.9% of America’s eligible voters cast their ballot for the next President of the United States. Even during the 2008 election season which brought the election of our country’s first African-American president, only 57.1% of eligible citizens showed up at the polls. Looking at various comparisons of voter participation in developed countries, various factors should be taken in account such as obligatory voting requirements and hefty fines for inaction during elections. However, should this be something the United States should consider moving forward? Perhaps it would be a good idea to consider this in a national referendum.
If we break down the statistics a little further and look at the participation rate amongst different age groups, the disparity between millennials (18-29) and baby boomers (65+) is a surprising 27%. Young adults are showing up at a rate of 45% whereas older age groups are voting at a rate of 72%. Of course different factors such as working hours, free time or even poll access can be taken into account, but even so, it does not make sense that a majority of younger people are not voting, especially when a majority of the decisions made by this government will affect millennials the most as they continue to work and live in society.
Voting should be viewed as an adult responsibility that we should all shoulder as we enter society. We have a responsibility to elect leaders who will represent our ever-changing values as our generation fully develops. It is an absolute disservice to our society if young adults continue to turn a blind eye to the actions on Capitol Hill. As we enter society, it is important that we are informed and understand the basics of how our government operates. Seniors are required to take at least one government class prior to graduating from high school, and although most of us view this as an irrelevant course, I implore you to take the time to listen with open ears and grasp at least a basic understanding of how our country is governed. Make it a point to listen to the national conversation whether it be on the radio, through television, or even on the internet. Our society is fortunate to have free access to information anytime and anywhere - so take the opportunity to get involved and learn.
Although most of us might think otherwise, it is the duty of the United States government to represent and serve the citizens of this country. If we do not vote, or even take part in government, there is no way for our representatives to gauge what is important in the minds of citizens and what is not important. Getting involved is simple, and far from complicated.
- Register to Vote
- Calling all upperclassmen! If you are going to be 18 by the next presidential election in November 2016, you have the opportunity to register to vote NOW! You do not have to go anywhere special to register to vote, nor are you required to talk to anyone special. The registration process can be completed online through http://registertovote.ca.gov/. Although you will not be able to officially vote until you are 18, completing this process early will allow you to walk straight into the polls on Election Day without any hassle.
- Watch the Republican or Democratic Primary Debates
- Campaign season for presidential candidates has already started despite the actual voting day being close to a year away. Candidates from both major political parties are currently participating in nationally televised debates in order to fully express their views to the American public before they make a decision on election day. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party are conducting 12 debates and 8 debates respectively. You can either choose to join a debate-watch party and rally around specific candidates like the photo above shows, or watch it by yourself. Don’t just put it on in the background though, actively listen and determine which candidate you would like to support in the upcoming election.
- Contact our local representative
- The United States House of Representatives contains 435 men and women representing districts from all over the United States. They represent the views of their constituents and bring it to Washington D.C. By contacting our local representatives, they can make the best decision based on what we as a population want. For those who live in Redlands, you might recognize the name Pete Aguilar who has previously served as Mayor, but is now representing the 31st Congressional District in the House of Representatives. For more information about him, including his views, contact information and more, visit https://aguilar.house.gov/.
- Vote in local/state/national elections
- The most important action of being an active citizen in society is to cast your ballot in all elections, not just the Presidential election. Elections are conducted for local city councils, education boards in addition to state/national referendums and political offices in all levels of government.
Now is the perfect time to get involved as the presidential campaign season gears up. Don’t let this opportunity pass to let your voice be heard in government. It isn’t every year we elect a president, and whoever is elected will be in office for the next four years. Who knows, perhaps you’ll find that one of candidates really speaks to you. Government is not intended to make life difficult, but is instead intended to serve the citizens of the United States.