Getting together at the holidays with family and friends is what many of us look forward to all year long. It also is a time that can be very stressful, where differences of opinions can create family ‘dramas’ which may seem better left to day time soap operas. Many topics we might want to talk about are often left “off the table” and not discussed. We encourage you this year, to take up some of these topics that you otherwise would not, and engage your children, your family and friends.
This guest post, “What Vote?” by New York University student Michelle Aboodi raises many important points and offers some excellent advice about why we all should be exercising our democratic right to vote. This right has been fought for in many wars, and many people have lost their lives so that we can vote. Yet, it seems that, across all age groups, we are not exercising this hard fought for right.
With so many people now taking to the streets over critical issues like equality, climate justice, and human rights, exercising our right to vote so that we ensure that our elected representatives hear us and really represent us, is critical. Take a moment to share this post and bring this important discussion to your holiday table…
By Michelle Aboodi
At the age of ten, we get the glory of being double-digits. In many cultures and religions, the passage from childhood to adulthood begins at age thirteen. We work to earn the ability to drive at the age of sixteen. At eighteen, in the United States, we have the opportunity to participate in democracy and cast our ballot for the people we want to make countrywide decisions and draft laws for us to follow. Elections impact my future and the future of the people and place I love. Turning eighteen meant that I could be more of an active political participant and I was excited at the possibilities for the future.
Unfortunately, the prospect of voting seems to be less than a thrill for many Americans, especially of college age. Only about 25% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 said they planned on voting in the Midterm Elections according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics Survey. In 2010, 31% said they planned to vote, but only 23% actually did. This year only 13% of people ages 18 to 29 voted. In 2012, 19% of this age group voted.
There are many possible reasons for this sad turnout – students are not targets for campaigns, registering to vote is too complicated or confusing, students do not care, or students did not know that elections were even happening. Politicians do not focus on students because at the end of the day, it is the older generation that makes a point to vote even though the decisions made will affect students more in the long run. Registering to vote should be so prevalent and in our faces, it should be annoying! Colleges should inform students about voting.
I know NYU sent e-mails about registering to vote in New York, but on the day of, I would have loved to see an e-mail reminder. Facebook did its part by creating a special Facebook status for voters to use when they rocked their vote. At a young age, students should be taught about current event issues as much as they learn about history so they realize that they have a huge stake in the future. Since students move around and are not permanent residents for the most part, it is difficult to get an absentee ballot or register elsewhere. Perhaps voter turnout would be higher if it was all mail-in like in Oregon or Colorado, but this is some food for thought.
I am puzzled and concerned about the lack of involvement from many citizens in the United States. I ask myself: what are the repercussions of this minimal turnout on the behalf of millennials? It is simple, if we do not use our voice, we do not have a voice. If we do not vote, we are allowing previous generations to speak for us. If we do not vote, how do we expect effective change to occur?
These issues – environmental, economic, human rights, and so on — are all of our issues. For parents and others, I see three ways to change how we involve ourselves politically and how we vote.
- Make it a habit – at a young age, bring your children to the polls and keep them informed. I remember my mom bringing my siblings and I to the polls and showing us how it is done, which is part of the reason why I was excited to turn eighteen and exercise my right to vote. If it starts out as a habit and a priority, it will continue to be important.
- Know your stuff – by this I mean, know about where you vote, how you vote, and what you are voting for. Discuss the hot button issues with your children at any age. If they are in college, call them up and ask their thoughts on what is going on politically, perhaps it connects to work they are doing in or out of their classes!
- Put elections on the calendar because they are just as significant as holidays, birthdays, and so on!
Michelle Aboodi is a New York University student, and intern at ClimateMama