Stay Woke and Vote: Generations of Underrepresentation

“Climate change? That’s a you problem — I’ll be dead soon,” declares an elderly woman on Acronym’s September 2018 video: “They’re doing fine, are you?” Made for their ad campaign, “Knock the Vote,” the satirical video features several elderly white individuals gloating about their consistency in appearing at the polls to vote, while taunting America’s young voters and their periodic failure to do so.

The senior actors in the video suggest that instead of going to vote, the youth might “share this video on Facebook” or “go to one of those little marches,” “but you won’t vote,” one old-aged man finally asserts.

Today, it is expected for young American adults to be majorly underrepresented at the polls—this video proves it, but the ad’s true intent was not to insult this demographic and undermine their efforts at political action. Rather, it was made to acknowledge the immense capacity for provoking social change that today’s youth especially demonstrates.

Behind the elderly actors’ insulting humor was abrasive encouragement for young voters to channel their unique strength into the most efficient method of effecting change in government: breaking the generations-long trend of youth voting apathy.

The United States Census Bureau’s report of the voting registration demographics of 2016’s presidential election reveals a total of 137,537,000 Americans voted. Out of that count, only 11,560,000 of them were 18 to 24-year-olds—making the youngest, but most important voting demographic responsible for only a little over eight percent of the counted ballots. 

While initially shocking to see such scarce youth voter participation, it is inaccurate to assume that their lack of votes equates to complete political inaction.

High school students, some of which are still not of the age to vote, were responsible for organizing one of the largest movements against gun violence in the United States last year.

These kids are not politically idle; they already know the strength of their voices as a collective. It is only a matter of showing them how they can best employ it.

Youth Service America (YSA), a youth-oriented resource center, recently compiled a list of the four most common reasons why young people do not vote; citing a lack of encouragement from candidates, family and peers to vote, the youth’s limited knowledge on how voting works, having their schedules conflict with voting and worst of all: they feel as if their votes are valueless.

In a democracy characterized by its particular focus on the exercise of civil liberties, it is discouraging to know how many people feel they have no say in its government. Unfortunately,  American politics are not becoming any less polarized, and consequently, are not becoming any less stifling of individual voices; for that reason we must push now—harder than ever before. 

With the 2020 presidential election cycle approaching, I say to all youth voters: if you are unhappy with something, change it. Voting is not about having the loudest voice, it is about having your own voice.

Do your research, select the candidate you, and only you, hope to see in office and go vote. 

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Katie Hopewell is a Sophomore Political Science and English double major with a concentration in Writing, Rhetoric, and Publication. Katie is from Emerald Isle, North Carolina and spends her spare time playing frisbee for CofC's Women's Ultimate Team.

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