In 2008, President Obama won the election by approximately 9,522,083 votes. Of the 153 million people registered to vote, right around 129 million Americans actually cast votes that year. (Check out the Wikipedia article for those stats, if you’re interested…)
So what about 90 million? Depending on the source, statistics say that the Millennial head count currently sits between 80 and 95 million strong. We’re going to split that difference and say 90 million just so we’re on the same page. We currently outnumber the Baby Boomers, making us quite the force to be reckoned with.
However, the reality is that we are more like a domestic kitten as a generation instead of the formidable lion that we should be. We are oftentimes viewed with disdain by the older generations, written off as lazy, uninformed, and selfish. And there might be some truth to that. Only 23 million of us got out to vote in 2008. Less than half of us are actually registered to vote. (These statistics come from an article written in the Huffington Post.)
So, why don’t we vote?
The truth is, as a generation, we feel increasingly disconnected from the political process. It’s overall highly convoluted and antiquated, both of which being characteristics that we just don’t have the time or attention span to navigate. Further, an increasing percentage of us are just flat out refusing to vote because we feel that the system is fundamentally broken. Change the system, we say, and maybe we’ll engage with it. Even for me, as a Millennial with a degree in political science who makes an honest effort to stay politically engaged, I sometimes question whether having to vote for the candidate I think will do less damage is a good way to do politics and government.
But who is going to change the system if not us? We are the ones that are just starting to step up to the plate and, at 90 million voices, we do not have to accept the status quo if we would just bother to speak up.
And we can’t change the system by avoiding it.
Our generation is spearheading new, sustainable models of interacting with our world. We continue to rally behind things like social entrepreneurship, collective impact, and community empowerment. There are those among us that are shining examples that business does not have to be done “as usual” as long as we are willing to stand up and say otherwise.
For those who are keeping score, the vast majority of that action is happening outside of the political sphere. However, it is because of action outside of politics that we start to see change happening in a tangible way in the government. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the passing of the DREAM Act are fantastic cases in point of changes that happened in government due to grassroots work that was being done outside of politics. Hopefully, environmental issues will begin to follow suit. However, we must participate politically in order to see that change happen while we continue to work outside the political sphere for changes that are important to us.
So, go register. Turbovote is an easy way to get yourself registered. If you are a college student, you can even set up your absentee ballot if you can’t get back home for Election Day. Even better, you can sign up to receive notifications to be informed about future elections. Once you’ve registered, inform yourself. But forget those political ads for sure. Project Vote Smart is a great, nonpartisan way to get information on candidates and their platforms.
At 90 million voices, it will not be possible to ignore us…whatever it is that we decide to say. It’s absolutely essential that we take the initiative to step up and say it.
Lindsay LaPlante graduated from Winthrop University in 2008 with B.A. In Political Science and Modern Languages. She is also a 2008 AmeriCorps Alum as well as a MCE blogger for Mobilize.org. Lindsay started the Charlotte Urban Farm Project in 2011 in an effort to create access to local food while meeting and engaging communities, individuals, and organizations where they are. Currently, Lindsay is enrolled as a graduate student with a concentration in Political and Civic Engagement at Winthrop University.