University of Colorado Boulder Students Express Concern on Percentage of Youth Voter Turnout

by Lauren Hamko

Lauren is a junior at University of Colorado Boulder majoring in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She believes youth voting is extremely important because it gives us a voice.

After the recent midterm elections on Nov. 6, 2018, students at the University of Colorado Boulder are concerned that their voices and interests are not being heard with a youth turnout rate under 50 percent.

Since 1980, American voters between the age 18 and 25 have not shown a turnout rate above 50 percent. The percentage of youth voters in the United States has been following a negative trend, meaning that each election the percentages are shrinking due to less youth voters turning out to the polls.

The turnout percentages are shockingly low and students at CU Boulder are concerned that their interests are not being accounted for. However, CU Boulder students remain hopeful that youth voting percentages will increase in the future with proper encouragement.

Julia Kincaid, a student at CU Boulder, believes that voting is her responsibility as an American citizen. She thinks it is important for every other young adult to believe this as well.

“They [the youth] can get their opinions accounted for and their voices heard,” Kincaid said. “It is important that they can have representation in a government that they feel is representative of what they want.”

According to Child Trends, 39 percent of youth voters turned out to the pools to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The highest percentage of youth voters in the past 46 years was in the 2008 presidential election at 44 percent (Child Trends).

The percentage of youth voters reached a low in the 1998 midterm elections. According to the US Election Assistance Commission, 18.5 percent of voters between the ages 18 and 24 voted. This is compared to 56.5 percent of voters between the ages of 45 and 64 and 61.3 percent of voters age 65 and over.

Kaiser Family Foundation gives the total population of The United States at 320,372,000. The number of people between the ages 19 and 25 is currently at 29,814,800. This means that young adults account for 9 percent of the American population.

The low percentage of young adults in the entire population does not allow for much representation for them. Due to this, it is important that young adults vote to allow them to maximize their influence in the government.

“Maybe they [youth voters] don’t really know what issues matter and what issues affect them,” Kincaid said. “Maybe they feel like the issues aren’t things they really want to vote on.”

Rather than thinking youth voters does not have the proper knowledge and understanding of politics like Kincaid believes, Pierce Doogan, a CU Boulder student, blames the low percentage of youth voter turnout on oppression.

“I think the reason younger voters aren’t actually having as much of a turnout is because of the older generation,” Doogan said. “The older generations are making us feel like ‘who cares if you go out and vote.’”

Students at CU Boulder are encouraged to vote through many outlets. Before the 2018 midterms, campus activity circulating voting in the election was booming. Students were guest speaking in classes, setting up informational booths, and handing out voter registration forms.

“There’s all those people on campus harassing the students all the time,” Kincaid said. “It’s more in your face when it is constantly being discussed. They try to market it to students to get turnout numbers up.”

Encouragement to vote on campus is exerted mainly by students at CU Boulder. However, professors get involved as well. Professor Max Boykoff teaches Environmental Studies at CU Boulder. Throughout the month of October, Boykoff expressed the importance of voting to his students multiple times.

The Environment and Public Policy are two issues that the youth have expressed strong concern about. The future of Climate Change is a matter that is becoming more prominent with each election. In order to influence the future of both of these topics, it is important for young voters to get to the polls.

“A lot of younger people feel as though what they have tried to influence hasn’t made much of a difference,” Boykoff said. “Feeling disaffected is a logical output.”

Boykoff allowed for a group of students to start his class by handing out voter registration forms a few weeks prior to the midterm elections. The professor also included slides on his lectures that reminded his students of the upcoming election date and how to proceed with voting.

“I think it really is about approaching it [low youth voter turnout] from different ways. There is no silver bullet,” Boykoff said. “There’s a lot of upstream ways you can address it by helping people feel empowered and feel as though their voices, concerns and interests matter.”

Despite a common declining trend in the numbers of youth voters, students remain hopeful that young adults, like themselves, will positively change the trend. They are thinking of new ideas to get people to the polls on election days.

Both Doogan and Kincaid are optimistic about the turnout for the 2018 midterm elections. They believe that many of their peers voted and will continue voting. Both of the CU Boulder students think that youth voter turnout rates will begin to follow a positive trend starting with the 2018 midterms and continuing with the presidential election in 2020.

There is little data released on the percentages of youth turnout for the recent midterms on Nov. 6, 2018. However, many outlets are suggesting that early data shows an increase in turnout percentages.

Doogan is always thinking of ways to make it easier for young adults to vote and has many ideas, although, he has not figured out the functionality of them yet. He believes that the younger generation is one that will easily take four steps to do something, but if it is five, people will never touch it.

“We need to take off that extra step,” Doogan said. “There should be a way that makes it easier for us to vote. One where you don’t have to walk in and drop off a ballot.”

Whether an increase in youth voters stems from encouragement from others or an easier way to vote, CU Boulder students are confident that the percentage of youth voters needs to rise. Students like Kincaid and Doogan agree that the importance of young adults turning out the polls cannot be stressed enough.

“I am going to keep voting,” Kincaid said. “It’s a responsibility of mine to do so, and everyone else should also feel this way, too.”

Voting is the best way for the youth to represent themselves and have their voices heard. Starting with the 2018 midterm elections, the youth population of the United States should strive to reach a turnout above 50 percent. A change in the trend is long overdue.

This entry was posted in Commentaries. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and must be approved to become visible to the public. Please do not submit your comment twice.