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Explainer: Why Has Student Voting Decreased?

College students have the right to vote but don’t know how, or may not understand why.

WORDS: Morgan Jefferson

PHOTO: Pavil Danilyuk

Do college students have the right to vote? 

College students who are 18 years of age or older, have the right to vote but don’t know how, or may not understand why. College students oftentimes feel like because they are still young, they don’t have to engage in political obligations like voting. College students have the option of voting in their home state or in their state they attend college. “To make it easier for students to vote, the government allows learners to submit absentee ballots (also called mail-in and vote-by-mail ballots) if they're registered in their home state and are attending school out of state.” So there are opportunities afforded to college students in terms of voting… it's about students taking advantage of them. 

Why don’t young people vote? 

Young people are less educated than their elders and this is the broader reason people like to use as an excuse to why young people don’t vote. Everyone is easily influenced based on what people in their age group are doing. If young people aren’t voting it’s because they don’t see their peers doing it as well. “Older people are more likely to have observed friends making the choice to vote, over the course of multiple election cycles.” Though this is the turnout here currently in the U.S. this is not defining voting around the world. 

What is the impact of low rates in youth voting?

The youth votes in 2022 dropped from 28% to 23% in 2018. Though this has happened, in recent years the youth electoral participation has been higher. Not only is the effect on voting based on youth, but race, gender, and state/region all have threatened democracy. In 2022, there were only about six states that attained at least at a 36.5% youth vote rate. Historically, youth voter turnout has always been lower than citizens of older age. “Nationally, young voters supported House Democrats by 26 points.” The current U.S. president, Joe Biden won the youth vote in his 2020 election. 

What is the power of youth voting?

When the U.S. The Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion rights in the Dobbs decision, it was the young voters that were outraged and put their rights to action at the response ballot box.  Voters under the age of 30 comprised over 14% of ballots cast, exceeding the youth vote share for each of the past three general elections in the state. In recent years young people are playing an active role in the course of our nation. When it involves events that they know are detrimental to their future, they are all in with voting. The question is how do we keep them steadily involved in wanting to vote?

Are the older generations to blame for low youth voting rates?

The issues that favor older votes like Medicare, prescription drugs and Social Security keep young people away from voting because it can often be talked about more than issues that young adults feel matter to them like climate change, gun violence, and reproductive rights. The legal system blatantly ignores issues they care about and it is a historical cycle that keeps repeating every election. It would be of benefit to both political parties (Democrat and Republican) to engage more young voters in order to raise voter habits in them. 


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