One of the first things I did after I turned eighteen was register to vote. For some reason, I was really happy to be able to participate in politics. Maybe it’s my interest in history and the US government or the fact that I’ve always wanted to wear one of the little “I voted” stickers; either way, I was very excited to finally be able to vote.
Unfortunately, it seems that I’m the odd one out when it comes to voting enthusiasm. According to National Public Radio, Gen Z kids and Millennials comprise over thirty-seven percent of eligible voters, but show up to the polls in very low rates (npr.org). This surprises me, considering that my peers are very politically active in other ways, like volunteering, protesting, and organizing. To me, voting seems like an extension of those things, but I do understand that there are some anxieties or misgivings about voting that need to be addressed.
As far as the casting of a ballot itself goes, it’s ridiculously easy; it took me less than three minutes to register online. I opted to vote by mail this year, which makes everything even easier — all I have to do is fill out the ballot at home and drop it off in the mail. Being an informed voter, however, is a different case entirely. It definitely took a lot of time for me to research everything that was on the ballot and figure out who and what I wanted to support. The time commitment all comes down to how much research one is willing to do.
General anxiety about voting is another thing that comes into play. On any given day, I’m always worried that I’m making the wrong choices in life and voting is no exception. Despite preparation, it can be really hard to choose between candidates and decide on whether measures deserve support. Voting can feel like a test, and for someone with test anxiety, filling in the answer bubbles on the ballot is suspiciously akin to filling out a scan-tron. Luckily, the only way to fail is by not casting a ballot at all. People have different opinions about how their communities should be run, and that’s what makes voting so special; we all have the ability to voice those thoughts and stand up for the things we care about.
Initially, I was doubtful about whether my vote actually matters in a state like California that, come hell or high water, consistently votes blue. However, I have learned that voting is so much more than simply the presidential election. Every ballot has elected office positions, measures, and propositions that directly affects our communities, where every single vote counts. When local voter turnout is in the low numbers, that means that the limited number of people who cast a ballot are making decisions for the entire community, and for young people, those are often the decisions that are in effect for our entire adult lives. Ensuring that those decisions represent the needs of the community at large means that everyone eligible to vote needs to, especially young folks.
And that’s exactly why I’m voting: for deciding how I want my community to look, for self-expression, and for making sure my voice is heard. I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to help structure my government and engage with my country’s politics in a meaningful way — so why wouldn’t I vote? Not only is it important, being civically engaged is always cool.