Political participation is essential for young voters

When a person turns 18, they’re often excited about all the new abilities they have. Buying lottery tickets, working full time, going skydiving—they’re all experiences for legal adults. But the most important right you gain when you turn 18 is also one of the most overlooked: the right to vote.

In an age where digital activists don’t even have to leave their couches to try and sway others’ political opinions, millennials have a reputation for being incredibly vocal. Yet we also vote at shockingly low rates.

In the 2016 presidential election, 70.1 percent of the Silent Generation (anyone 71 and older) voted, according to the Pew Research Institute. They were the generation with the highest turnout. Millennials, on the other hand, failed to show up; only 49.4 percent of people ages 18-35 cast a vote. If we want to be politically active and make a difference, the most fundamental way of doing so is voting. It’s ridiculous to make calls for change, but fail to show up when it really matters.

As we turn 18 and graduate high school, it is incredibly important for us to be politically aware and active. We're the generation who is poised to inherit this government and economy, so even from a young age, it's essential that we participate in guiding its path. We don't have to campaign for candidates to run for office ourselves, but knowing candidates and keeping up to date will ensure a better future for all of us.

All Americans should have a say in the direction of our country—but according to The Hill, only 60.2 percent of those eligible showed up and voted in the 2016 election. Six in ten Americans are deciding the fate of our country—that's barely a majority. According to the Pew Research Institute, the United States is fourteenth out of 18 major developed countries in voter turnout. For a country that touts our freedom and democracy as our biggest assets, we are severely lacking in follow through.

An increase in voter turnout would likely result in more satisfaction without government's actions; many complain about our representatives, even though they may not have even voted for or against them. If a person doesn't vote in an election, their opinion of how the candidate is doing is irrelevant—if they didn't feel strongly enough to vote, it clearly must not matter much to them, because if it was important, it would have been a priority.

To prove that we have a vested interest in our future, we must vote. If we vote, we will see the changes we claim we want to see. We need to speak up and make decisions too—after all, it is our country too, and it's the one we will inherit from older generations soon. So it is essential for all young voters to educate themselves, create good habits early and vote. It's the only way to ensure progress.

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