Why Young People Don’t Vote

November 6, 2004

Speculation from a young person who didnít vote.

First of all, as always, I feel the need defend myself for not voting, but I wonít. Those reasons will come out in rest of this writing. No worries, I fully intend on voting for the rest of my life, so keep your heads on.

I have been eligible to vote in the last two election, and if you were to ask me what the inside of a voting booth looks like, I couldnít tell you. Remembering back to the fall of my sophomore year at Taylor, I am trying to recollect what my surroundings were like during that semester (2000). Oh yes, thatís the semester I spent 4-7 hours a day in the library doing work for the weed-out class in Christian Ed and Biblical Literature (my roommate can vouch for that statement). So much for watching campaign coverage. Anyway, I just decided I didnít want to start thereÖrewind to high school.

Try to remember with me what you learned in high school about our democratic system of government. Not what you learned about history, just about what you learned government wise. I was fortunate enough to have one of the best high school government teachers in the country (I will stand by that always). Mrs. Gilley, though unabashedly liberal, is a lover of democracy, like all good liberals and all good conservatives (and everyone in between) should be. I learned an amazing amount about the US government in one semester of high school. I just wish I would have cared enough then so that I would remember it now. I cared, just not enough. That is precisely my first point. Young people donít care enough, but not for reasons you might think.

Why Young People Donít Care Enough About Government

1. First of all, young people donít know enough to care. They donít know enough about democracy, its history and its benefits compared to the governing systems of other countries in this world. This is failure on the part of two parties: one being parents as educators and two being the educational system itself. As far as parents go, generally what they teach their children about democracy (purposefully or inadvertently) is simply this: there two parties, democrats and republicans and whatever I am you are, or you should be. Parents can be just as bad as the media in their not giving of the whole story.

2. Second of all, young people are in their own world. This is an issue of physical development as much as it is of social development. It is now thought that the period of adolescence lasts until the age of 22 or 23 (yeah, Iím almost out!). Up until the end of adolescence the young person is growing psychologically/mentally (this is partly why we do all of our big screwing up when we are young). Although I believe I will live in my own world for a greater portion, if not all, of my life, that is different from being in my own world as a teenager/adolescent. This is where social development comes into play. If you will remember high school, do you remember anything happening in the world around you? Did you ever think about the world as whole? Did you ever think about the entire country (excluding when big things happened, like Columbine for meÖthat was different though, because that was still in the realm of ďmy worldĒ)? Chances are you thought about the opposite sex, the note you were going to pass to your friend in between or during classes, what was on the lunch menu, what time the basketball game was, did your hair look okay, was the guys restroom going to catch on fire again (thatís a personal one). Iím going to guess that as a 15, 16, 17 year old you werenít thinking, ďMan if I was 18 who would I vote for?Ē And even if you did, you would just vote for who your parents were voting for. If you have ever been a young person or worked with young people, you should know that it is very hard to break into their world with something more interesting than what is already in it (which is them), and unfortunately politics doesnít make the cut.

Okay, back to my sophomore year at Taylor. By the way, not much changes here from high school for a lot of young people, including myself. Life at that time for me was socially and academically driven, in that respective order. Itís pretty much like high school on a caffeine high, because you are about 10 times more socially and academically driven. You eat, sleep and breathe people and school, and letís be honest, letting George W. Bush and Al Gore into that picture is rather frightening. I would rather be in the reference section of the library for 7 hours a day. Although I do remember all of us dorm girls thinking that W. was so cute for an older guy and so we wanted him to win. See, itís just like high school. You still donít know enough about democracy, about history or about the candidates. That moves me into the present situation.

Besides being in the middle of a move during this election season, not getting an absentee ballot and refusing to drive all the way to Grant County Indiana to vote when my state was going to vote Republican regardless, there was another reason I didnít vote (by the way, you might check the temperature in hell if Indiana ever votes a democrat into office). That other reason is simply this: I didnít know what to believe, who to believe and certainly not who to trust. There are no clear lines for the young person, and it seems like everyone is lying. It is hard to make such a decision when you are royally confused. Remember, young people are new to the voting game. It can be intimidating. After all that Iíve discussed about young people, one can see how it would be hard for a young person to have a fully formed political view at the age of 18-25. There are exceptions, just as in everything. I can only speak for myself.

Iíve wondered sometimes why young people hate their high school literature classes, and Iíve come to the conclusion that it is for a similar reason as to why they donít vote. It is because they donít have the life experience necessary to digest and fully comprehend the condition of humanity, which is what all the great books are about in the end. Similarly, young people donít have the experience of knowing and understanding enough about the human condition of this world and what power actually lies in their hands. P. Diddy can register them to vote, but he canít educate them about life. Life educates us in a cruel mannerÖas it happens.

Something funny happened to me while I was watching the election coverage this past week. I started to understand and love democracy. It was almost like I felt myself growing up. I am a registered voter in the State of Tennessee now, and ready to play my part as emperor of the US.

I guess Iím hoping this helped someone, anyone, understand why young people donít vote. It seems to be a hot topic these days. I may not be right, itís just speculation from my experience. And look, I turned out alright (debatable). Be gracious with the young voter, or young non-voter. They are deep wells full of beauty and mess crashing around in their hearts and heads. And ultimately, the soul is more important than the vote.

One comment

  1. i love the way you have comprehension of “the condition of humanity” what a neat way of expressing that thought i really appreciate your thoughts on voting

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