Whether it's a presidential or midterm election, young voters can have a huge impact on who wins at the polls. As we've seen during the presidential campaign in 2016, young people can and will rise to the occasion when they feel passionate about issues and candidates. Whether democrat or republican, right wing or left, the importance of taking part in elections is one that parents should be teaching their children from the time they are small children.
With so many distractions in their lives, it's easy to ignore what's happening beyond their communities, but young adults and college students have a right and responsibility to get involved.
The Future is Theirs
Social security, medicare and other government programs, both state and federal, that focus on older people are always important topics during election seasons. Older people historically vote at a much higher rate than younger voters.
"Some 61 percent of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2010 election, the best turnout of any age group. More than half (54 percent) of those ages 55 to 64 also cast a ballot. People under age 45 are much less likely to vote. Just 37 percent of 25- to 44-year-olds made it to the polls in November 2010." - USNews.com
This disproportionate voter rate puts young people's interests at risk, as candidates focus on winning and campaign to the portion of the population most likely to support them.
Important issues such as the cost of a college education, health insurance, job security and others that directly affect younger voters can and will be pushed aside if these voters don't show up to support candidates or vote in the primaries for presidential elections.
Young adults should be encouraged to watch debates and read news articles - both in support of and against their positions - to understand what each candidate believes are priorities.
Encourage conversation, even heated discussions, if it will help to get young adults involved in the political process.
Getting to the Polls
It can be difficult for college students to figure out how to vote when they are living away from home. In addition, younger people tend to move more frequently than older people do, and voter registration can be an afterthought in a peripatetic life. There are many options for absentee voting, voting out of state, and voting in your home state from a long distance. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University offers this tool to help students figure out the best way to vote when they are away from home.
For those who are not students, there is an absentee ballot request form.
A question many students may have is where their vote will have the most impact. Deciding where to cast your vote can make a difference in both the primaries and general elections. Countmore.org offers data about the 2012 presidential election for all 50 states that can help with the decision process.
Making Sense of it All
Even for the most politically savvy person, understanding the positions and support systems each candidate has can be daunting. With so many important topics to cover, candidates often don't have time to go into detail about how they plan to implement change or maintain progress during a debate or a brief interview.
With hundreds of news sources to choose from, facts can be distorted based on who is reporting them.
Delving deeply into all of the issues would be no small task, but identifying the truth in what is being said by each candidate is not as difficult. Young adults - and everyone, in fact - can benefit from unbiased and honest reporting and research. Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, is a Pulitzer Prize winning site that offers unbiased facts about what is said and what is reported in politics and the government.
Another reliable source for fact checking of virtually anything online is Snopes.com. Often if something seems too impossible to be true, it is.
In a 2014 survey, Pew Research Center found that half of Millennials (50%) claim that they are independents, not affiliating with either democrats or republicans.
This reflects the overall generational difference between millennials and their parents. With lives that are far less secure and also more free-flowing, many young adults are searching for a candidate who speaks to their particular needs. By providing them with the information necessary to not only make decisions but be able to vote in the first place, parents of young adults can encourage their children to participate in the voting process.