This post was written by our summer 2022 MPH Intern, Harper Eisen
It is more important than ever now to vote in federal and state elections. We are living in unprecedented times where things like common sense gun control and bodily autonomy are things we have to fight for. We have seen young people across the nation leading the fight and demanding change on social media, in the streets, and even at home at the dinner table, but voting is where we can improve our efforts. In a 2020 report from the US Census Bureau, 55.8% of the total population aged 18-24 were registered to vote and 48% voted in the 2020 election; while an impressive effort, voter turnout in 2020 was still the lowest among people aged 18 to 24.¹
Young people are the future and we need to see a future that we want to live in. We need to see representatives that actually aim to represent us. We need politicians to give us something to vote for, and we need to feel excited and empowered to vote.
We need representatives to really listen to us, not just with their ears but also reflected in their actions. Listen to what is important to us and make it important to them. We need to see representatives who are proudly and loudly supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals, not just with a rainbow social media post during pride month but everyday. We need to see representatives who rally alongside us for equitable abortion access and fight for stricter gun control laws.
Most of the issues that need governmental change today affect us young people, but politicians don’t seem to care about us until we turn 18 and can vote. We are the targets of mass shootings in our schools and colleges, targets of restrictive reproductive health care bans, targets of deceptive anti-abortion centers, and targets of things that will continue to change our future as we grow our families and grow up. However our voices are not represented in places where decisions about our future are being made. The average age in the U.S. Senate is 63 years old, with more than 80% being above age 49, and the average age in the U.S. House of Representatives is 58 years old with more than 90% being above the age of 39; these numbers are similar for state representatives.² There is a generational divide in politics and our representatives are not even trying to bridge the gap by talking to us, learning about what we want to see, and certainly not attempting to make our voices heard on the political floor.
As young people we are concerned about many things involved in our future. We want to create families, start careers, and build economic security, among other things. However it is hard to look forward to our future when we have less legal access to abortion than our parents and grandparents. We are going backwards instead of moving forward and many of us feel helpless. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has made this evident for many young people and once again shown that too many politicians don’t care about our future. A survey from March 2022 said that 74% of adults aged 18-29 and 61% of all adults 18+ supported the legality of abortion in most or all cases, but just three months later our Supreme Court decided to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.³ This just another example of our supposed leadership not representing young people let alone most of the adults in the United States.
We need to see action and we need to see it urgently. We need to see politicians out in the community, talking to young people, asking what’s important to us, and actually listening to our answers. When we support and vote for political candidates, we expect these elected officials to use their power to make our voices heard and create real change that builds a society we want to grow into. It is hard for us to continually vote for representatives that don't do everything they can to represent us once they are in office. As young people, we have too much at stake to accept empty promises rather than action. We must have as much say in the governing of our country as the older generations, and we deserve to have our voices represented.
- United States Census Bureau. (n.d.). Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2020. Census.Gov. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and-registration/p20-585.html
- Age of Members of 117th Congress (& Averages). (n.d.). FiscalNote. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://fiscalnote.com/blog/how-old-is-the-117th-congress
- Pew Research Center. (n.d.). Modest gender gap in views of whether abortion should be legal. About Six-in-Ten Americans Say Abortion Should Be Legal in All or Most Cases. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/ft_2022.06.13_abortion_04.png