Young voters are motivated to vote — don't forget them this election

Young voters are motivated to vote — don't forget them this election
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Someone once told me you’re supposed to start an opinion piece with a story. Well here’s the story: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE is not a good choice for America and he needs to be voted out. The end. 

As a result of his impotent leadership, more than 160,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. States have lost millions of dollars — and thousands of lives — and are struggling to recover. Young people, like myself, are concerned about our future. What have the last four years of Trump meant for the next four years? For the rest of our lives? We do not plan to sit at home and ponder this question. Rather, we aim to act. 

In a study by Pew Research Center, Millennials and Generation Z comprised 34 million of nearly 138 million votes cast in 2016. That turnout for young voters rose exponentially from just over 18 million votes in 2008. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, 77 percent of young voters are still motivated to vote. 

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But in order to do so, everyone must be encouraged to vote safely in November. Resources must be dedicated to ensure voters have access to mail-in ballots and safe polling locations. The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied a request from the Texas Democrats to expedite a case that would have the state expand their vote by mail to include people under 65 years old. As a part of the electorate, we should receive as much attention as other historically active voting blocs to ensure we are represented. In a city like Washington, D.C., where the median age is 34 and 122,000 people under 35 years old voted in the 2018 midterms, we have the ability to shape an election. 

With lessons learned from the June primary, the DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) has devised a plan to automatically send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter. As many recall, there were missteps that took place before and during Election Day, including mail-in ballots that were never received, hours-long wait times at polling locations and confusion over voting while a curfew is instated. While mailing everyone ballots will significantly cut down on confusion, automatic vote by mail is not a universal cure-all. Our neighbors in Maryland had their own challenges with their automatic ballots and drop boxes. Vote by mail programs take years to put together and execute successfully. Additionally, they can disenfranchise young voters because of the transient nature of college students, recent graduates and low-income individuals. And for youth currently living in shelters, their lack of permanent housing certainly impacts how they get a mail-in ballot, if at all. 

In a poll conducted by Global Strategy Group for NextGen America, nearly half of voters under 35 years old in key battleground states said they felt they did not have enough information to vote by mail in November. That lack of information needs to be addressed and remedied. We’re lucky here in Washington since our board of elections has resolved to provide every registered voter with a mail-in ballot, have more polling locations for in-person voting and is implementing a dedicated messaging campaign. But it is imperative that DCBOE works with local groups to urge people to register to vote, check their voter registration and have the information they need about the election. 

Many people likely take young voters for granted. However, state boards of elections across the country should prioritize youth-centered organizations in their “Get Out The Vote” efforts. Our age should not be taken as a signal that we aren’t owed as much attention. Voter education is for everyone, and increased recognition of the youth vote could help expand participation.

We not only have the chance to elect a new president, but we also have the opportunity to elect new representatives down-ballot, including new councilmembers who will be a part of the pathway forward. 

It’s imperative that everyone who can vote has a way to vote. Our city, like the rest of the nation, will be reeling from the effects of COVID-19 for months, if not years to come, and we need to make sure that everyone has the chance to voice their opinion on the forthcoming solutions. We owe it to Democracy, to our cities and ourselves. 

Jennifer Blemur is the president of the DC Young Democrats. Follow her on Twitter @JABlemurESQ, and follow DC Young Democrats @DCYDs.