This has been, undeniably, a very tough, very long election. And, 2016 has become one of the most important years to get involved at the national and local levels. While we’re not here to tell you what to do or how to vote, we just want to take a minute to repeat that every vote counts. Every single one—especially the votes your students cast.
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 35), make up about 31% of the eligible voting population. By comparison, Generation X (ages 36-51) is only about 25% of the electorate.
But, in 2012, only 46% of eligible Millennial voters made it to the polls. Compare that to 72% of the Silent Generation (those aged 70 and older), and you can see why pundits and analysts alike are scrambling to figure out how to get young voters to the polls on November 8.
In the meantime, there’s been a lot of research about why they’re not voting. Experts say there are a number of things that hinder young voter registration and election day participation:
- One NPR report cites the fact that Millennials move around much more than previous generations, so registration and consistency is a barrier for them
- The Campus Vote Project says some students worry that they could lose their scholarships for registering to vote in a state different than their residency (though they probably won’t)
- The Washington Post explains that this cohort of young voters are more likely to delay their careers, marriage, and children, which delays their political involvement
- While some states, like California and Oregon, have instituted mail-in ballots and automatic voter registration, other states, like Alabama, have made it increasingly difficult to vote
So how can you get your students to the polls on November 8th?
It may help to dispel some of the myths that make them nervous—many places do allow students to register to vote in the municipality they go to school in, for example. You may want to pass along some info from the Campus Vote Project, including state guidelines for registration, deadlines, and voting day laws.
This election cycle, we’ve heard a lot about voter intimidation, which has undoubtedly made some young voters (especially if this is their first time voting!) very nervous to go to the polls alone. You may encourage your students to go with a buddy or a group, as it takes some of the edge off the nerves.
Some professors have been known to offer extra credit to students who voted, though it is against the law to offer incentives for voting—be sure to check state laws and your institution’s rules before instituting any policy like this.
Last, and maybe most importantly: it is never too late to educate students on how the electoral college works, why every single vote counts, and what each candidate would mean for their future. They wouldn’t be the first people to say, “Ugh, I don’t like any of the candidates, I’m not going to vote.” But it’s especially important for young people to get to the polls, because this vote will affect their futures the most.
One more thing: there’s no harm in encouraging your students to have a voice in this election. But you cannot pressure them into telling you which candidates or issues they will (or have) vote(d) for.