Getting Out the Vote: Why is this so difficult?
November 22, 2019
With social media and the current political climate, more teens and young adults than ever are educated about what’s going on in politics and are angrier and more passionate than they’ve been in years. However, the statistics are well-known, if you know where to look. Young voters are by far the least likely to be registered to vote, and the least likely to vote out of all age groups. Considering the elections coming up– the primary election, and the next presidential election– it’s more important to register voters now, than ever.
In my time registering voters, I’ve noticed that if they have the resources given to them, and if they have the time to do it, almost nobody turns down the opportunity to register. Most 18-24 year olds (the primary age group I register) are willing to do it, enthusiastic even. At least five people personally reached out to me after learning I could register people, asking me how they could register themselves, and countless people I’ve registered were surprised at just how easy it was.
So why, then, are so few young voters registered?
From my experience, I think the answer is that they just don’t feel like it. If you don’t know how to go about it, it’s a lot of work to seek out voter forms, find your social security number, get a stamp, and mail it all the way in. Even if you provide all those resources (besides the social security number) as people who register voters often do, it seems like a huge chore to stop and have to fill out a form in order to do something you’re statistically less likely than other age groups to do anyway. It seems tedious. It takes up to five to ten minutes of your time, and if you’re in a hurry, or have a lot of work to do, it’s easy to just say “I’ll do it later.”
Here’s the thing, though; the hardest box in that form to fill out is the last four digits of your social security number or your driver’s license number, and most people have their licenses on them anyway. Everything you need to register to vote, you already know. It’s easy. Those five to ten minutes are worth it when it comes to our local voters in particular. Ohio is a swing state, and one of the most important states in the electoral college. In Washington, they have a saying: “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation.” Ohio is vital for the presidential election, and not only that, it is a good predictor of how the nation will vote. In another state, maybe you’d be right in saying your vote wouldn’t count, but in Ohio, you don’t have that excuse.
From what I can tell, there are two barriers to registering young voters: Lack of information, and lack of resources. There are few 18-24 year-olds who know what’s required to register to vote, and fewer still know how to go about registering, even if they know they can. That’s where resources come in. By providing voter forms, and taking care of collection and mailing, those volunteering to register new voters are tasking prospective voters with only one thing: providing their information. In order to increase numbers of young voters, what we need to do is educate them on how they should register, why their vote matters, and finally, provide them with the resources to register.
Most get-out-the-vote ads do a good job stressing the importance of voting and the importance of an individual vote. However, very few of them actually inform people on how to register, or give them the resources (whether through a website to register, a phone number to contact, or an actual location to get forms) in order to register themselves.
The problem isn’t that young people are unmotivated to register to vote, and it definitely isn’t that they’re apathetic about the political process. The problem is that young voters don’t know how to register to vote– what it takes, information-wise, and how to physically register.
Most of the teenagers I talk to have at least some opinion about what’s going on in our country, and the majority have educated, well-formed and articulate opinions on what they want from our government, and why they care. Almost all of them agree something is wrong in this country, and that they want a change, regardless of how they identify themselves on the political spectrum.
As young people, we can’t exactly run for office. We don’t have the resources to lobby, to speak directly with elected officials, to really engage in the political process. Maybe as we get older, but as students? As teenagers? The most effective thing we can do is demand change, and protest for change, and most important of all, tell our legislators what we want.
What’s the most effective way to do that?
In the state of Ohio, if you will be eighteen by November 3, 2020, and are not currently serving time for a felony, you can register to vote.
Voter registration deadlines:
February 18th: Register to vote by this date to vote in the March 17, 2020 primary election.
July 6th: Register to vote by this date to vote in the August 4, 2020 special election.
October 4th: Register to vote by this date to vote in the November 3, 2020 general and presidential election.