One disturbing phenomenon should give Georgetown students pause regardless of political affiliation this election season: Turnout among voters between the ages of 18 and 29 was significantly low, giving credence to the often-trotted-out theory that our generation simply is not motivated enough to get out to the polls.

In fairness, the American electorate during a midterm election is always considerably older than in presidential years; the numbers also make it clear, however, that our generation still has work to do in terms of engaging in our elections. As a share of the electorate, voters aged 18 to 29 made up just 13 percent of total voters, compared to 19 percent of total voters in 2012. Here in the District of Columbia, total turnout for this year’s mayoral election stood at just 32.5 percent.

With our generation lodging frequent complaints about the government, one would think that turning out to vote would be at the top of the priority list for an age group that is developing a track record for an activist approach to change.

The notion that one’s vote may not be that consequential in our elections is usually offered as an explanation or a rationale for not voting, but that attitude only fosters a culture of political indifference that is the antithesis of what American democracy is supposed to be about.

Of course, low turnout rates in one midterm election are not a death knell for our generation’s future political participation. It is encouraging to see the increased engagement in the past two presidential elections, and 2016 promises to be yet another wide-open election in which young voters will be a highly sought-after and targeted voting bloc. But political scientists have shown that even not voting just once can establish a habit of not voting in future elections.

Voting is not just an action one has to take in order to be able to complain about our government’s shortcomings — it is the manifestation of one’s political beliefs, priorities and aspirations for our nation. But if lofty rhetoric does not spur increased turnout, the harsh reality that many of our government’s decisions ¬— when it comes to health care, taxes, the environment and so many other areas — have a profound impact on our lives beyond our college years should serve as a stark reminder to our generation that your vote is what can and will guide those decisions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *