During a recent appearance at Camas High, Democratic Congressional candidate Dr. Carolyn Long talked to local teens about the importance of participating in politics, and said many older voters in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District seem to have a preconceived notion that today’s youth aren’t interested in politics.
At Washington State University, Vancouver, where Long has taught political science for more than two decades, college students involved with the university’s Initiative for Public Deliberation regularly take part in in-depth political activities.
“I train my college students to be neutral facilitators. They go into communities and facilitate policy conversations,” Long said. “The audiences skew a little bit older, and these students are between 18 and 22. People are so excited that students are leading these conversations. There is a perception that youth are not politically active, so when they see the students being politically active, how they perceive kids changes.”
Engaging youthful voters is something that’s been on many people’s minds since the 2016 presidential election — an election Long succinctly summed up as “uncivil behavior rewarded at the ballot box.”
The vast majority of Americans age 30 and younger say they strongly disapprove of President Donald Trump and the politics of the far right wing. The most recent polls show only about 16 percent of these Millennials and post-Millennials approve of the job Congress is doing, 60 percent say they would like to see Democrats regain control of our government’s legislative branch and fewer than one in four agree with the GOP’s politics.
Those numbers should scare Republicans going into the midterm elections — especially considering that, by 2020, Americans age 18 to 29 will constitute 40 percent of the country’s eligible voters.
“Young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 have the potential to significantly impact the 2018 and 2020 elections, with a whopping 22 million teens turning 18 by 2020,” states Leigh Chapman, a senior policy advisor for the Let America Vote organization, in a recent policy memo regarding challenges and opportunities for young voters. “The March for Our Lives and National School Walkout are just the latest examples of how this new generation is influencing the national conversation — on gun violence but also on social and political issues ranging from the economy, health care and the environment to immigration, college affordability and voting rights, just to name a few.”
As Chapman points out in the Let America Vote policy memo, young voters historically do not turn out in the droves needed to sway an election and take control back from older, more conservative voters. Additionally, there are forces at play right now making it more difficult for young voters to get to the ballot box.
“After the 2010 election, many states began introducing harsh measures making it harder for people to vote,” Chapman points out. “Several states have attempted to roll back voting rights for students. These aren’t good-government efforts, or attempts to improve election administration. These continuous efforts to suppress the voice of young voters are a political response to those voters’ growing impact on the electorate. When youth get out the vote, elections can be substantially influenced in favor of one party, often the Democratic Party.”
In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, where Long is running to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, older residents far exceed youth when it comes to the number of registered voters: as of Sept. 1, of the 435,520 registered 3rd District voters, only 23 percent were 34 and younger, while a full 26 percent were age 65 or older.
Asked by the Camas High students during her Oct. 2 “Lunchbox Talk” how people their age could get involved in politics, Long had several suggestions, including perhaps the most important one — register to vote and then make sure you do vote.
“Get involved early in life and it will become a habit you continue the rest of your life,” Long told the teens. “And you will find it rewarding. It’s important to realize your vote does count.”
There are several movements happening around the nation aimed at getting young people registered to vote — and then actually getting them to go to the ballot box or, in a state like Washington, fill out their ballot and either mail it in or drop it off at one of the several ballot boxes positioned around the community.
Researchers at MTV discovered young people are more likely to vote if they have a friend who actually invites them to come to the polling location, so MTV kicked off its “+1thevote” campaign this year to help get young voters out for the midterm election. Twitter’s #BeAVoter campaign is another popular way of getting younger voters to register in time for the midterm election in November.
Locally, Clark County voters still have a few days to register in time to vote in the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election. Get your registration done by Monday, Oct. 8, to lend your voice to the midterm elections. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 19. For more information about registering to vote in Clark County, visit clark.wa.gov/elections/voter-registration.