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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Where have all the young voters gone?

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

It was election day Tuesday in a handful of states and though the numbers are not yet in, I'll bet the percentage of young voters is among the lowest in history. Turnout by young voters - 18 to 24 year-olds - has fallen consistently for three decades. If that trend continues, and there's no reason to assume it will not, that could mean trouble ahead.

Turnout by the younger voters dropped to less than one-third in the last presidential election. The first year I was eligible to vote the turnout was 45 percent. Of course, the war in Vietnam was raging at that time and that issue alone generated substantial voter turnout. But shortly following that election, the voting age was lowered to 18 and the decline began.

As a result of this dismal turnout by young voters, candidates tend to focus their attention on senior citizen voters who turn out in huge numbers from a percentage standpoint. But just because these older citizens do indeed vote with greater frequency, it should not mean that campaigns are tailored to their needs. But the reality is unfortunately that's exactly what happens.

You would think that young voters would jump at the opportunity to exercise their newfound privileges. But apathy and confusion combine to lower the turnout numbers substantially.

I realize it's not a popular notion but I have always had reservations about the voting process in our republic. Though it may sound radical and never has a chance of acceptance, I'm not convinced that everyone should be allowed to vote. It would seem to me that voters have a responsibility to arrive at some basic form of understanding about an issue or a candidate before they should vote. I absolutely abhor the system that counts the votes of the uninformed on a equal basis with those who ponder the issues and make an educated decision.

Granted, some aspects of this approach are clearly un-American by our current definition. But it irks me that far too many people arrive at the polls with absolutely no understanding other than that was the way their parents voted or some other lame excuse.

Enough ranting about the election process. For now, it would benefit everyone if we could arrive at a solution to generate higher turnout by young voters. When the majority of us are dead and gone, it will be up to these young voters of today to guide our nation tomorrow. That process starts by electing those to represent our interest. When two-thirds of young people ignore that process, it doesn't say much for our future.

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