Youth voters have the potential to shape the Arizona elections in November if we turn out the vote.
Universities hold immense power and influence in molding the paths students take in life. For many students, entering college is their first major landmark of adulthood. At 18 years old, you are finally able to get a tattoo and vote. Colleges are stereotyped to be the place where you explore partying, but imagine if that focus shifted to the place where you become politically active instead.
Imagine universities providing resources to help students register to vote and teaching students how to critically think about how they vote. Imagine if young people engaged in politics to the same degree as older voters. Well, we certainly would not be voting for politicians and policies that defund education and raise tuition.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, 58% of voters ages 19-29 voted for Hillary Clinton while 28% voted for Donald Trump. This is the largest voting gap compared to older age ranges. However, only about half of 18-29 year old citizens actually turned out to vote in the 2016 election. As a result, the youth vote accounted for only 19% of all votes casted.
Despite this low turnout, the youth vote still played a critical role in shaping the 2016 race in key states. Electoral college votes in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Nevada would have gone more decisively to Donald Trump if it weren’t for the youth vote, as reported by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Young voters have the potential to shape not just the presidential election, but state and local elections as well. In Arizona, there is a major senate race between Mark Kelly and Martha McSally. In multiple counties there are races for county attorney, board of supervisors, county recorder, sheriff and so much more. We have the numbers to make a significant impact in November–we just need to show up!
Youth vote organizers across the country understand what is at stake and have been working hard to turn out the youth vote in record numbers this November. We are fighting for the voices of young people and providing students with the knowledge and resources to register to vote and submit their ballots. Recently, NextGen Arizona worked with strong volunteer teams to activate students during the first week of classes at Arizona colleges and universities.
We know that together we can win.
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Editor’s note: The opinions in this letter to the editor are those of the author’s. Publishing does not imply endorsement from The Mesa Legend and its editors. This letter to the editor was submitted by Lexy Reyelts, an organizer at University of Arizona for NextGen Arizona, part of the progressive voter registration nonprofit NextGen America.
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This article was changed on September 16th, 2020 to correct a fact. The buying age for cigarettes is 21, not 18.