Young voter turnout throughout the years has been stagnant, but with the majority of millennial voters now 18, the Nov. 8 presidential election could be decided by the youth.
Young voters — people between the ages of 18 and 35 — are now just as powerful in presidential elections as their parents, according to analysis of U.S. census data from the Pew Research Center.
The question now is: will they use their power to vote?
East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks said young people are always moving, which makes it harder for them to register and subsequently cast a vote when the election arrives.
“They’re going to college and getting new jobs,” Wicks said. “You can’t always expect them to be on top of voting.”
But, Wicks said voting is an obligation and not just a right. There are currently around 4,000 student-age people registered to vote in East Lansing or about 10 percent of the undergraduate population, Wicks said, which is higher than in 2012, when about 2,800 young people were registered.
“It takes two seconds to register,” she said. “I don’t know why anyone would neglect this.”
Abby Kiesa of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement or CIRCLE at Tufts University in Maryland said this year’s wave of young voters could have a tremendous impact on the outcomes of not only the presidential election but state legislature races as well.
“If young people want to be persuaded as to why they should vote, they should look at how many of their peers will,” Kiesa said. “Their block of voters could impact just as much as their parents.”
An estimated 69.2 million Millennials are now voting-age citizens, which is almost equal to the number of Baby Boomers in America’s electorate. Both make up roughly 31 percent of the eligible voters in the country, according to Pew Research.
CIRCLE compiles and rates districts across the nation where young voters can have vital impacts, based on the number of universities in the district and population of millennials. Michigan’s 8th district is one such area where young people could drastically change the outcome.
Kiesa said students and young voters should be even more motivated in these districts because there’s a good chance their vote, along with their peers’ votes could change the outcomes.
Finance senior Matt Luberto said people shouldn’t have to be persuaded to register.
“It’s unfortunate now we have so many people who don’t think voting is important at all,” he said. “I learned at an early age, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
But, Kiesa said it’s not that easy for all young people to vote, no matter how much she wishes it was.
“Young people who aren’t on a college track have a hard time with photo ID laws, so there’s lower turnout where they have those laws,” Kiesa said. “There are so many varying factors for young people in voting.”
Michigan has flexible ID laws, compared to some states, allowing a voter to sign an affidavit and vote a regular ballot if they do not have photo ID with them.
Kiesa also pointed to statistics that show areas with higher affluence tend to have better civic education and in turn, have higher voter turnout among young people.
In the 2012 presidential election, 60 percent of young voters attended college. Kiesa said the high turnout is because of their access to civic education.
In Ingham County, Wicks said there really aren’t any excuses for young people not to vote.
“It’s just so easy,” she said. “I think we will see higher voter turnouts for young people in this election, but I want to see that continue to increase.”
An error was made on the date of the election in this story’s original post. It has been fixed to reflect the correct date.