As I was out this weekend decorating the house for Halloween, I noticed a group of people canvassing on my block.
Canvassing during election season is typical. Because I’m not registered as a Democrat or Republican, I tend to make the lists of organizations curious to find out how I might vote. I was visited by Planned Parenthood the weekend before. They were curious what issue was most likely to get me to the polls and who I planned to support for Governor.
This group, though, was simply urging people to vote. “We just want to remind people to vote next Tuesday,” one of the women told me. “It’s the most important thing.”
I told her I agree and that I was definitely headed to the polls. I hope most of us will do the same.
While there’s no shortage of opinion on politics in this country, there is a real scarcity of people willing to get themselves to a polling place on election day to vote. In 2016, only 55.6 percent of eligible voters exercised their right to do so. President Trump only needed the votes of 26.3 percent of the country’s eligible voters to win the highest office in the land.
And even more vexing is the fact that a very small percentage of young adults voted. In 2016, only 46.1 percent of adults under 30 voted. While it was a slight uptick in turnout for that age group from 2012, young adults continue to make up the smallest voting block of any age group.
Young adults continue to be the most elusive and puzzling factor in election science. Will they vote? Or won’t they? And why?
As prognosticators try to get a handle on that for the upcoming midterm election on Nov. 6, they’re asking the same question. A poll released this week by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government suggests young voter turnout could set a record. That poll found 40 percent of adults under 30 (ages 18-29) say they will “definitely” vote.
While 40 percent seems like a failing grade, it would mark a dramatic improvement over the status quo. That would be a remarkable upswing for an age group for which the highest turnout for a midterm election was 21 percent in 1986 and 1984 according to the report.
“More than ever, young voters have shown they are ready to stand up and be heard,” said Mark Gearan, director at the Institute of Politics. “Our candidates and political parties would benefit tremendously from paying close attention to what is now the largest bloc of potential voters in America.”
That may be true, but as long as young people continue to stay home, they shouldn’t wonder why the things they care about are largely ignored by the people in office. Be sure to vote on Tuesday. It’s the most important thing.