Written by RMV intern Shanaya Daughtrey
On June 26th, 2023, interns from Return My Vote and ambassadors for the organization UA Vote Everywhere volunteered at Alabama’s NAACP Shelby Summit Conference.
Upon the 10th Anniversary of the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision that made it unconstitutional to apply the Section 4b coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act in determining which jurisdictions were subject to the preclearance requirement, this multi-day summit highlighted the importance of voting rights, voter education, voter participation along with other salient issues that are sowing division within our country and between its citizens.
While attending some of the sessions that were being hosted, I heard many people, specifically from the Baby Boomer and Generation X generation, echo their beliefs about how apathetic young people are when it comes to voting, elections, and civic participation.
Being one of the few young people in the room listening to the backlash and mild irritation aimed at my generation, I just sat there silently-aware of the generational gap- knowing in my heart that I am a part of a generation of young change agents who have time and time again utilized social media to ignite worldwide social movements and generate lasting change that can impact future generations.
Even though I was aware of the stark differences that encompassed our three generations in terms of attitude and thought toward voter participation and election interests, I was still amazed at the umbrella of thought geared toward young people being passive about voting.
As a young woman who prides herself in being a voting rights advocate and activist, and being surrounded by friends and peers who take an active interest in the welfare of our democracy-at the local, state, and federal level- I believe the opinions that were expressed in that room about young people were antiquated to say the least.
Just look at what happened in the 2020 presidential election; based on an article published by Tufts University, “…51.4 % of young people, ages 18-29, voted in the 2020 presidential election, a remarkable 11-point increase from 2016 (39%) and likely one of the highest rates of youth electoral participation since the voting age was lowered to 18.”
This election not only signified a growing interest and commitment to political engagement and action in 2020 displayed by young voters but it illuminated the impressive ability to have been able to navigate a changing electorate during a global pandemic.
With health care, education, and voting rights all under attack, I believe that now more than ever, young voters are motivated to ensure that their voices are being heard and their votes counted.
Our democracy is teetering on a cliff, and it will take a collective effort to get our country back on track, but that all starts at the polls.
I believe that instead of assuming that young people are uninterested or apathetic toward elections, we should start asking what may be preventing them from getting involved. In accordance with an article published Tufts University, young people’s hope for the future is a reflection of our belief that our generation can and should engage in civic life and effect change. Nonetheless, there appears to be a gap between young people’s interest in political participation and whether they feel prepared and qualified to do so.
Ensuring that the youth electorate is supported and well-informed with the necessary tools and information which will inherently put us in a more efficacious position in terms of voting, will undoubtedly assist in bridging that gap between preparedness and political participation.
Our voices matter and in order to keep increasing the percentage of youth voter turnout in all elections, not just presidential elections, we should all be doing our part to bridge the gap of misinformation, lack of information, voter education, and support.