Journalism staff stresses using political voice
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As members of our staff reach the age of voter eligibility, we ask ourselves a question that young people throughout the nation have been asking themselves this year: Do our votes matter?
In Lawrence, this is a more objective question than it is in other towns and states. “Blue dot in a sea of red” is not just a figure of speech. Because of the electoral college, our abundantly left-leaning town gets left in the dust when it comes to the presidential election.
Many of us align with the Democratic party and agree that their votes do not count on the national level. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t count.
We can often feel disillusioned with the political system or feel that the decisions of people in power will not affect them. On the national level, this is sometimes the case, but local and state elections have an impact on citizens’ daily lives. We believe voting is an essential part of the political process.
Voter turnout among 18-24 year olds was at an all-time low in the 2014 midterm elections, and young people are consistently the least likely age group to vote. We believe the low turnout could be due to lack of information about how and where to register to vote.
Polling places are generally open during common office hours when young adults are in school or working a wage job that pays by the hour, unlike salary jobs where people can afford to miss a few minutes without losing money. This skews elections in favor of the educated, elderly and wealthy.
However, a few of us believe voting on the national level, especially in states where our political views are in the minority opinion, is a waste because the vote would be swallowed up by the opposing party. Similarly, in a state where our beliefs align with the majority party, some of us would not vote because they would know that other voters would carry the vote in their favor.
In local elections, we believe our votes will make more of a difference because local and state governments control funding for education and social service policies that have the power to hurt or help our generation.
Young people do have the power to change the political landscape and affect the policies they value. Over the past two decades, the cultural landscape of the United States has transformed dramatically. Our generation grew up seeing a black president and expansions of rights for LGBT people.
We were raised on the internet and now have more access to information than any other generation before us. And yet, often we sacrifice that empowerment to the baby boomers who were born and raised during an era of segregation, a culture divided by race, gender and sexuality. Young people must vote to see the policies they value take center stage.
In the end, the consensus is voting is not something to be taken lightly. We believe staying educated and informed on our country’s issues is an important part of being a citizen and keeping our democracy strong.