By STEPHANIE RAUHE
Capital News Service
LANSING – In the late 1700s when America was drafting the Constitution and forming a democracy, it was vitally important that citizens had the right to vote.
Since then, people have fought for their right to vote, including constitutional amendments to protect those rights.
In 1971, the 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18. That allowed members of the armed services who were under 21 to vote, and the slogan “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” was born.
In the past, people aged 18-29 were less likely to vote than older people, but that is beginning to change.
According to a study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, Michigan had the highest youth turnout of any state during the 2022 midterm election, at around 37%.
That was a huge jump from the 2014 elections, when the youth turnout was a mere 15.3%.
The executive director of the Department of Civil Right, John E. Johnson Jr., said his agency is already gearing up for the 2024 presidential election.
“We found the best way to get anybody involved is to make it personal,” Johnson said. “We want to address your situation. As a young person, what is it that you need?”
The League of Women Voters of Michigan is taking steps to target young people, co-president Paula Bowman said. That involves making voting registration processes more user-friendly.
The organization also offers an online voter guide to help young voters understand their options and provide them with resources such as common voting terms, FAQs and tips for students.
“We always regard the youth vote as the most important factor in elections, and we do our best to reach out to them,” Bowman said.
The league participated in the recent Michigan Student Voting Summit at Oakland University. The summit was hosted by the Department of State and Campus Vote Project, to educate students and encourage them to register.
According to the Department of State, 300 students and educators from high schools and colleges were registered to attend, and members of the Legislature were invited to be part of the breakout groups with students from their districts.
“In a few short years, Michigan has gone from one of the worst to first in youth voter turnout,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a press release. “Initiatives like the Student Voting Summit are part of the reason Michigan has emerged as a national youth voting leader.”