Getting out the youth vote

youth-voter-turnout
Photo by Julie Tripp

Virginia is among the 10 states millennials can impact the election the most, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

About 66 percent of the city’s population is registered to vote. Of these voters, millennials, described as people between the ages of 18-34, make up about 44 percent of the registered vote.

Generational advocate group Virginia21 Communications Director Tim Cywinski stated in an email that millennials have the power to influence the political climate and culture like never before.

“Millennials are the most diverse and most educated generation in the history of the United States,” Cywinski stated. “In this election, we also represent the largest group of eligible voters.”

Millennials are the largest living generation in the United States and make up 31 percent of the eligible voting population. Historically, millennials have the lowest voter turnout. However, according to USA Today, 83 percent of millennials are registered to vote. Cywinski stated a low voter turnout for the youngest generation is a trend, but millennials face unique challenges.

“This has been the case for older generations when they were the youngest, but millennials face a variety of special circumstances,” Cywinski stated. “The vast amount of politically relevant information presented to us is generally negative. This singular scope of negativity certainly encourages voter apathy.”

VCU College Republicans Vice President of Communications John Rackoski stated in an email that increased education and outreach resulted in a higher number of registered voters, but he doesn’t think this will result in more young people voting.

“With two candidates with such higher unfavorable ratings, it is likely that many younger voters will either vote third party or stay home…more likely the latter,” Rackoski stated. “I anticipate much lower youth turnout than that of four years ago.”

However, there was a larger turnout of young people in the Virginia primary election than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, students make up 40 percent of millennials. Cywinski said he thinks as student-loan debt and college affordability become increasingly relevant issues, interest and concern among young voters will grow.

“Large voter turnout — especially in a battleground state like Virginia — sends a signal to our elected officials at every level that millennials are a force to be reckoned with and our issues deserve as much attention as anyone else’s,” Cywinski stated.

In addition, Cywinski said the perception behind voting is changing from a question of validity to absolute dedication to its power and influence and with the availability of online registration, the process it easier and more understandable.

Senior VCU public relations major Asia Hosey registered in high school and is making the trip home to vote.

“Despite the theory that your vote doesn’t matter, in true life it does matter. And if you want to see effective change then you should be a part of that,” Hosey said. “It all starts with one.”

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SaraRose Martin, Contributing Writer

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