Are You Making a Difference This Election?
Just in time for debate season, today's guest post on the value of voting as a young person comes from Youth Council Member and MeetMe co-founder Catherine Cook. Be sure to read her bio below!
I was really excited for the 2008 election because it was the first year that I was old enough to vote. Though I was away at Georgetown, I mailed in my vote so that I could still participate in the election. Come January 2009, I got to the National Mall around 5 a.m. to be among the one million people who saw President Obama’s inauguration in-person.
The 2012 election season is in full swing now that both national conventions are over. In the weeks before the election, it’s time for candidates to woo swing states and debate their planned policies in October. But, there’s another date to remember before the general election: September 25th is National Voter Registration Day.
My company, MeetMe, a social network for meeting new people recently did a survey about the upcoming election. The survey received over 13,000 responses, and one of the responses that especially stood out to me is “Do you plan to vote in the 2012 election?” Of members who are old enough to vote, 67% plan to vote this election, which is great considering less than 60% of people of voting age made it to the polls for the 2008 election. But, the 67% isn’t the full story.
When we divide the data into two groups, people 18-30 and people 31+ we see a pretty steep age difference emerge. Of people under 30, only 61% of them plan to vote compared to nearly 75% of people over 31. Why don’t people under 30 plan to vote? For over 20% of them it is because they aren’t registered to vote, and for 1/3 of them, they just don’t care who wins.
I don’t understand people who do not care who wins or will let filling out one form -- that you can even do online -- stop them from participating. Election season is exciting, and your vote shapes the next four years for our country. Voting is empowering! It gives your voice an impact in elections. Don’t care about social security, foreign policy, or immigration? That’s fine, but some of the national issues brought up in this campaign affect young people directly.
For instance, the cost of education and youth unemployment is a very hot issue right now. As college application season ramps up for high school seniors, remember that over the last 10 years, the cost to attend a 4-year public university has risen 68%. When state budgets lose cash, public universities lose the funding they need to make a college education affordable. At Rutgers University in NJ, a great public university, the cost of attendance including tuition, textbooks, and room and board for an in-state student is over $28,000 per year. Student debt is soaring as well,
by graduation time the average student has $15,000 in student debt, and since nearly half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, they are having trouble paying off this debt.
As Election Day draws near, you may want to ask yourself which candidate do you trust most with America’s future? Find an issue you care about, learn about it, and do something. Even if you are too young to vote, this is still the time to make your voice heard. Join an advocacy group and find ways to help the issues you support. Just raising awareness around particular issues can have a profound effect on those around you who are voting.
Make a difference this election by registering to vote and telling your friends to register! In nearly every state you must first be registered to vote before Election Day. While some states like Pennsylvania are making it harder for people to vote on Election Day, registering to vote is easy! Some states even let you do it online. If you’re not registered to vote, go do it right now on OurTime.org, or make sure to do it soon. In many states the last day to register to vote is October 6th.
Are you planning to vote on Election Day? Tell us why or why not in comments!
My name is Catherine, and I co-founded MeetMe.com (formerly myYearbook.com) with my brother Dave in 2005. I am responsible for some of the most important applications on MeetMe.com, including Causes and am dedicated to making MeetMe more engaging and helping build new features. Since I graduated from Georgetown as an OPIM and marketing major and psychology minor, I have been at MeetMe's office in New Hope, PA full-time. I like to write and am especially interested in ReachOut’s efforts to create awareness about youth mental health. As an avid runner, I am also passionate about initiatives focused on maintaining good health from stress relief to nutrition!