Our campus has seen many demonstrations and protests throughout the years. You only need to wait for a visiting preacher to give a sermon on chastity, have grad school stipends threatened or a pro-life group visit campus to talk about abortion, and UK students congregate to voice their approval or disapproval of the topic.
Our generation is increasingly a proactive one, migrating from social media posts to in-person confrontations such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #LoveWins. The Washington Post reported in August that millennials’ protests are getting real results— like diversifying emojis, boycotting companies based on ethics and morals and buying products based on where they’re made. All of these are great initiatives that represent the tenacity of our generation, but one thing is lacking: Our initiative to get out on election days and vote.
The PEW Research Center reported in June of 2018 that although Generation X, millennials and post-millennials account for a majority of adults eligible to vote, they aren’t showing up to the polls.
That research showed that 59 percent of eligible voters were in the Gen X, millennial and post-millennial categories but cast 21 million fewer votes than their seniors— the adults 54 years of age and older. The younger generation has welcomed 18 million more eligible voters since 2014, while the older generation has declined in eligible voter numbers by 10 million since 2014, both thanks to young people coming of age and the natural circle of life.
Our generation represents the future of this country and the world. We will be the leaders in 20 years, and we must step up and be civically responsible. We must vote in every election, no matter how trivial the election seems. Do you think a city council race is not important? City councils determine important things like how much bills will be. Don’t think a presidential election matters? The president is the figurehead of our national conversation. From the school board to the president, every election is a demonstration of democracy and we must all participate. If we don’t, we cannot fairly criticize those in office.
The PEW Research showed that only about 30 percent of young people on a national scale were showing up to vote. In our congressional district, 2017 data provided by the Commonwealth of Kentucky State Board of Elections shows a voting turnout rate of around 56 percent of female voters and about 49 percent of male voters between the ages of 17 and 24. Though this is better than the national numbers shown by PEW, they still represent a dangerous trend of apathy. Only around half of us are voting in elections that are changing the course of our community’s and nation’s histories.
Women recently celebrated the 98th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right the vote. The statistics mentioned above show that women are more active voters in our community than men, but we are still falling short of truly honoring how hard suffragists fought for our right to this basic democratic function.
An ongoing and controversial investigation is now being conducted into a possible Russian collusion in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. While this no doubt is a serious issue and demands attention on an international level, we should be equally concerned with the low voter turnouts during this election. Data provided by The American Presidency Project shows a consistent decline in all voters. In 1960, almost 63 percent of voters voted and by 2012, this data shows only about a 55 percent turnout. We simply cannot continue to sit out on our democratic right and duty.
The Kentucky Kernel reported in November 2016 that several UK students were hesitant to cast a vote in the presidential election due to disapproving of both major party candidates, citing data that showed 40 percent of millennial voters between the ages of 18 and 29 disliked both presidential candidates and 48 percent weren’t affiliated with a major party. Though that story reported that many UK students did vote out of civic duty, they felt that they were throwing votes away on third-party candidates. It quoted a UK student, Trevor Kennedy, as saying, “Voting third party is hard….you know your vote means nothing and it’s more of symbolic gesture more than anything else.”
We at the Kentucky Kernel want to encourage you to exercise your democratic right and consciously decide to vote in every election, no matter who you vote for, be it major or third-party candidates. No vote is just a “symbolic gesture.” Each vote is an active statement that says that you value your democratic right to help determine the course of your nation’s history. No matter how small a candidate is, your vote is your chance to be true to your political and moral principles and is never a cast-away action.
We recognize that many students are registered to vote in their home state or county, and we encourage these students to actively look into obtaining absentee ballots, which allow you to cast your vote remotely before election day. Usually, these can be acquired through a phone call to your county clerk, but each state varies. Look into how your county and state handles absentee ballots and fill one out for every election. Absentee ballots help free up your schedule and help you to vote before you forget.
Whether you are registered in a different state or county and must rely on absentee ballots or you are registered in the area, we encourage you to vote no matter what in every election. As we prepare to be the nation’s next leaders, 50 percent effort will not do. This would be insufficient on a test, on an essay or on a presentation, and it is certainly unacceptable for an active democracy.
The next election in Kentucky is Nov. 6. This election will determine Lexington’s next mayor, our district’s congressperson and city council members, to name only a few. These elections are all worth your vote and attention, and we hope to see you at the polls.