Young People Have Voting Power, But Will They Show Up To The Polls?
To vote or not to vote? That’s the question some young people are asking themselves for the upcoming midterm election. Artists like Taylor Swift and Kanye West have worked to convince millennials that voting is a priority this year.
When We All Vote is a not-for-profit organization that mobilizes voters. They put together a video featuring celebrities and former first lady Michelle Obama. Artist Janelle Monae is seen registering voters while citing a statistic that says 4 million Americans will turn 18 this year. She tells the viewer that each of them has the ability to make a difference.
Vivian Lopez is a senior at the University of West Florida. She says she feels more social pressure to participate in this election than usual.
“It has kind of been a big movement recently through social media, through big celebrities and artists,” Lopez said. “Everyone is pushing our generation to get started in voting. This year specifically I am going to vote because I just feel like there’s a lot more societal pressure to vote.”
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials rival the baby boomer generation in terms of headcount. But, they’re unlikely to cast a majority of votes on Election Day. When I asked some of my fellow students at UWF whether they planned on voting and why, a few said it just wasn’t on their agenda.
“I have no idea what it’s about actually,” said UWF Sophomore Tiffany Rees. “Politics isn’t really my thing.”
Part of that voter apathy is because it’s a midterm year when turnout is lower across the board. This is also true for young voters. The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections office reports this county saw higher registration numbers for 18-year-olds in 2016 than 2014 or 2018.
In the 2016 presidential election year, nearly 1,200 18-year-olds registered to vote. For both 2014 and 2018, that number was fewer than 800.
Dr. Adam Cayton is a political science professor at UWF specializing in American politics. He says because voting is a habit, it’s all about getting the younger demographic to vote for the first time.
“Over time people’s lives become more stable and over time they get registered to vote [and then] they learn how to vote,” Cayton said. “Maybe some political issue or some candidate really matters to them and causes them to vote once. But then once you’ve voted, you know how and it’s easier to keep on voting. So, it tends to be habit forming.”
Susanna Rogers is 20 years old and defies all millennial stereotypes. She’s involved in local politics, has worked for city council and volunteered for Republican campaigns. Rogers believes the current political climate is a mobilizing force for young voters.
“I think people aren’t realizing, especially with the culture now, how involved young people my age are going to be,” Susanna said. “It’s not just Taylor Swift putting up a post and saying, ‘hey you should get registered to vote.’ I think it’s the political climate and a little bit of social media as well.”
Though there will always be some young voters who don’t engage in an election, plenty are planning to show up and show out to the polls for the 2018 midterms. Conner McCreeless is a senior and says she will definitely be voting this year.
“I like the ability to be able to choose who our leaders are, and voting gives me that ability,” she said.
One of the early voting centers for Escambia County is located on the UWF campus in Building 90. Florida voters can cast their early ballot there until this Saturday at 6 p.m.