Generation Z predicted to influence the 2020 election

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Claire Moore '22

High numbers of youth voters are set to impact the 2020 presidential election.

In wake of the coronavirus pandemic and social outcries against racial injustice, the number of young voters in the upcoming presidential election reaches a record high.  Fifty-four percent of citizens aged 18 to 24 say they plan to vote in the 2020 election, a 4 percent increase from 2016, according to harvard.eduAt Sacred Heart Greenwich, both students and teachers are planning to utilize their democratic right to vote this November.   

Senior Ursula Vollmer, who recently turned eighteen and intends to vote in the approaching election, spoke to the value of youth engagement in democracy. 

“I think it’s really important for young people to vote because it’s not only a way to express personal beliefs about what’s going on in the world, it’s also a way to exercise one of the most important rights given to a citizen of the United States,” Ursula said.  “When you turn eighteen, voting is a way to enter into the nation’s political sphere and become involved.” 

The graph shows citizens of the ages 18 to 29 as the lowest percentage of voter turnout.  Courtesy of electproject.org

Although there has been a moderate upsurge in young voters this year, numbers still remain low compared to older counterparts.  The sectors of American citizens least likely to vote are youth, minority groups, the less educated, and the poor, according to circle.tufts.edu.  Reasons behind these lapses in voter turnout include a lack of habit formation over many years of voting, belief in alternative forms of participation, such as using social media as a political platform and attending protests, and opportunity cost for those with less flexible employment schedules and financial constraints, according to The New York Times.     

Senior Micaela Rivera shared her motivation for voting in the election this fall. 

“Before I even turned eighteen this year, I was registered to vote,” Micaela said.  “I really wanted to use the voice I have to make an impact.  We’re voting for our future, meaning the next generation, or undocumented immigrants, or people who are too young, we need to be a voice for the voiceless.” 

Organizations are working towards increasing youth participation in several different ways, according to The New York Times. The primary focus is to provide young people with specific information regarding registering to vote and casting a ballot.  Experts highlight the importance of widespread instruction on how a ballot works, including what it contains and how to properly fill it out.  A more long term process is working to undermine systemic barriers, especially surrounding registration, in order to bring the number of voters closer to that of the general population.  One suggestion is automatic voter registration.  This approach will add citizens of voting age to the voter rolls without them having to take any action themselves.  A comprehensive solution to age discrepancies in voters reworks civic education by teaching children about the voting process from an early age, promoting the importance of voting as a standard practice and potentially motivating young voters to participate in every election. 

Mr. Vincent Badagliacca, Upper School History Teacher and Upper School Chair of History Department, also supports early participation in civic responsibilities. 

“Get involved as early as you can in your life,” Mr. Badagliacca said.  “As citizens in a republic, or representative democracy, we all have the obligation to be informed about the issues.  You need to start paying attention to what’s going on on the national and local levels and start caring about and assessing whether the government is responding to the will of the people.”

Voting looks different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Courtesy of Mr. Elijah Nouvelage

Research shows that youth voters are set to have a greater impact on the presidential race than expected.  Seventy-nine percent of young people claim that the coronavirus pandemic helped them realize the impact of politics on their everyday lives, according to circle.tufts.edu.  The majority of today’s youth also lean towards the left of the political spectrum, boasting a two-thirds disapproval rating of President Donald J. Trump’s performance in office, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

“Young Americans today find themselves on the frontlines of the ‘triple crises’ of COVID,” Mr. Justin Tseng, Chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project, said in a statement referencing the pandemic’s impact on education and job prospects and the ongoing racial reckoning, according to circle.tufts.edu.  “Young voters are tuning in and facing our nation’s challenges head first.  Don’t be surprised when they turn out at the polls in historic numbers.”     

After this year’s chaos and controversy, exercising the right to vote is more important than ever as it is the first step towards social change, according to inquirer.com.  Eighty-three percent of young people believe they have the power to change America, according to circle.tufts.edu.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our rights in a representative democracy, we elect people to carry out the work of government and they are there because we have consented to this form of government,” Mr. Badagliacca said.  “If you do not vote, for one thing, you are damaging the entire system and not allowing it to work in the way it was intended.  Secondly, if you are not familiar with the issues, you might become the victim of a distant and unresponsive government.  If you do not hold government officials accountable for carrying out the will of the people, you are not doing your job as an informed and responsible citizen.”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22