The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board
For decades, the ratio of young adults who vote in elections to the number of those eligible has trailed behind that of the general population. In fact, fewer than one in five eligible voters aged 18-29 voted on Super Tuesday — the day when the greatest number of states hold their primary elections and caucuses. Turnout among young adults decreased as a share of all voters in all the Super Tuesday states with comparable data. In Texas, numbers fell from 20% in 2016 to 15% in 2020. With this recent decline in civic engagement, it is more pertinent than ever that young people engage themselves in politics and take action to stay informed.
Millennials and Generation Z make up more than one-third of those eligible to vote in this year’s election. In 2018 the Pew Research Center investigated the Census Bureau data and found that 52% of seven to 21-year-olds are non-Hispanic whites, making Generation Z the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet. Combined with the more liberal attitudes and the higher inclusivity characteristic of the younger generation, our diversity could be the key to fighting for groups that have been previously neglected. From police brutality to economic marginalization, minorities — not just Black people, but Native Americans, Latinos, and more — face many inequalities in their everyday lives. This makes it especially critical for high school students who can register to vote beginning on their 18th birthday to exercise that right in this election.
However, it’s also incredibly important for students who are not yet old enough to vote to stay in the loop and educate themselves on what is happening in the political world. The inability to vote may lead us to believe that it doesn’t matter whether or not we stay informed. Since the political landscape is overwhelming and difficult to navigate at times with different political ideologies, bills, and debates, actively engaging in politics can seem like a chore.
Regardless of whether we can vote in the upcoming election, one of the candidates will inevitably become our president. Therefore, we need to stay politically engaged to understand how our country will be impacted. While it would be unrealistic to assume that a president will fulfill all their promises during their presidency, their stances on issues such as LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, immigration, and the environment can help us expect what their values and priorities will be. Moreover, staying vigilant regarding political news helps us, as citizens, to hold politicians accountable for their actions and understand how their legislation will affect our futures. When we do have voting rights in a few years we will be able to make educated decisions with more historical context.
As high schoolers, instead of just voicing our frustrations towards the current legislation, we must be the ones taking action and initiating political change, regarding issues such as healthcare and environmental sustainability. Right now, we can watch political debates (https://www.c-span.org/debates/) and actively volunteer in local and state candidate campaigns, through calling voters and drafting position papers. In addition, we can also tune in to the California Secretary of State’s High School and Youth Initiatives website (https://www.sos.ca.gov/electionsz/high-school-programs) for resources like voter preregistration and opportunities like the Student Election Worker Program. Start staying informed about issues and individuals in politics that will have an impact on our future now instead of just expressing frustration.
As Election Day nears, it is crucial for us to step out of our comfort zones and take the initiative to actively engage in politics. Regardless of personal views or party affiliation, we are the future, and we have the capability to foster a positive, lasting change for our diverse society through exercising our rights. By engaging in politics now, we can be the voice to represent the needs of our generation.
Cover graphic by Opinion Editor Aria Lakhmani