I was a part of the first wave of 18 year old voters in a presidential election. In 1971, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, using the logic that if our young Americans are deemed old enough to fight (and possibly die) in our wars, they should be able to vote for the representatives who decided to send them off to war. (Now if we could only give them the right to enjoy an ice cold beer…)
I remember being so excited to vote in my first presidential election. I was one of those weirdo kids who started reading the paper (two papers a day) almost cover to cover from the age of 12 or 13. (You can correctly surmise that I was a socially awkward kid)
I remember reading the League of Women Voters insert in the paper and assessing the candidates and issues, preparing to cast the perfect vote. (I still read the insert, not sure I cast perfect votes) Aside: I remember being quite taken with the League of Woman Voters when I read that it was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt just prior to the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote. I love that the League is described as a “mighty political experiment aimed to help newly-enfranchised women to exercise their responsibilities as voters.” How about that? Responsibilities as voters.
There have been decades of elections since my first vote and I think I’ve only missed a handful. I’m what they call one of those Super Voters.
So in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, I saw a quote from a 19 year old who’s part of the protests on Wall Street. He said the political system in America is so corrupted and distorted by big money that he probably won’t even bother to vote. Then I read about how citizens in multiple countries around the world have fought and recently earned the right to vote. Yet seeing that their countries continue to be run by special interests has taken the edge off of their zeal to become voters and many now abstain from voting.
I’ll let Walter H. Judd, Representative to Congress from the state of Minnesota from 1943- 1963 say it for me:
“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.”
What I know is that young voters don’t always turn out at the polls, which kind of creates a self-fulfilling prophesy. (Easy for me to say. I was a young voter at a time when the majority of the population was under 30 and by sheer force of numbers, they influenced every aspect of American life. These young voters don’t have that reassurance. They’re not represented by sheer numbers.) The economic decisions being made right now are going to impact the young voters of our nation for the rest of their lives. More than enough reason to weigh in on the debate.
Thing is, the opposite of voting is not not voting. Instead of not voting get involved and get your voice heard to the extent that you have a candidate for whom you can vote. Or a policy you can support. Or a compromise you can live with. Or a corruption you want stopped. Or a point of view that needs to be heard.
Who knows social networking and communications better than the 18 – 30 year olds? Consider voting as the ultimate form of social networking.
I spent years of voting to earn my right to complain, young voters. Now it’s your turn.