Getting out the Vote: The Importance of Youth in Elections
Contributed by Sruthi Subramanian
There are many reasons why I am proud to be Minnesotan: From the Minnesota State Fair—where you can eat any food you can imagine on a stick—to exploring the 10,000 lakes (11,842 lakes to be exact!), it’s safe to say that Minnesota is a truly remarkable state. While we pride ourselves on housing the nation’s biggest mall and the headquarters of Target and Best Buy (otherwise known as the stars and stripes of corporate America), our greatness isn’t limited to our amenities. When it comes to civic engagement and voter turnout, Minnesotans know how it’s done. According to MinnPost, for nine election cycles in a row, Minnesota voters led the United States in voter turnout. In the historic 2020 election, an estimated eight out of ten eligible Minnesotans voted. This marked the highest turnout for the state in over 60 years. With a notable increase in absentee ballots, early voting opportunities, and same-day voter registration, Minnesotans were able to hold on to the blue-ribbon title for voter turnout.
A significant part of Minnesota’s electorate is the youth population. From civics classes to mock elections, Minnesotans are taught from a young age the importance of participating in democracy. However, across the country, young people are not registering and voting at the same high rate as adults. In the 2020 elections, roughly only 52%-55% of eligible youth from across the country voted according to an estimate from Tufts University. This is a concerning number. Oftentimes, the youth vote is decisive in key races at the local, state, and national levels across the country. Without an increase in civic participation, young people will not be able to directly effect change and to have a voice in issues concerning their lives and futures. During a time when issues like gun control and climate change are highly contested, it is critical that youth engage in elections to elect representatives that will address and fight for their communities’ needs and the issues they care about. By getting out to the polls, young people will be able to hold their representatives and elected officials accountable to ensure that the needs of younger generations are being heard and met.
The importance of the youth vote cannot be overstated. Non-profit organizations like New Voters and the Alliance for Youth Action are working towards 100% youth civic engagement. New Voters aims to register all youth voters across high schools in the U.S. and has made significant progress in the past few years. From hosting text banks to posting on social media, youth voter registration drives organized by New Voters have been highly effective at increasing voter turnout. Through voter registration drives, such as the one I helped organize at my high school, New Voters has been able to successfully register over 50,000 high schoolers! The impact of these new voters is tremendous— they will not only contribute to our democracy but will also have an influential voice in elections at all levels of government. While I am truly proud to be a Minnesotan, I am prouder knowing that I have a say in our democracy as a young voter.