Complacency is Criminal: Why Millennials Must Vote

By MATTHEW SMITH

It is very easy to not go and vote — ridiculously easy. After all, when Nov. 6 gets here it’ll be cold, and you’ll have work to do — so what’s the point?  It’s an easy mindset to fall into, and part of the reason that barely half of the U.S. population typically votes in elections. Yet when you look at the costs of that choice, especially for us — the youngest generation — our complacency seems criminal.

According to Pew Research, in 2016 millennials (which most of us are, depending on who you ask), made up 27 percent of the U.S. voting-age population, only a bit less than the baby boomers. Yet while nearly 70 percent of boomers came out to vote, only around 50 percent of us did. Now, in 2018, our electoral power has increased — we are very nearly America’s largest living generation. The 2016 election was decided by fewer than 100,000 votes in three states — as President Barack Obama noted this week, “more people go to Coachella.” We have the power to swing every single election in this country, but only if we come out to vote. 

We can tell ourselves that elections aren’t about us, that they’re not important. But we’re the generation that’s going to live with the results of climate change. We’re the generation that’s going to watch Social Security go bankrupt. We’re the generation that could make college affordable and healthcare accessible. We’re the generation that has that opportunity — and we have it in just 12 days.

I urge you to think about voting not as a choice between political factions, but as a responsibility. This country was built on the lives of those who died just so a fraction of the population — landowning, white males — could vote. And then came the Civil War, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which expanded the franchise to a population that would still be forcibly stopped from voting for another 100 years. Then came first-wave feminism and the 19th Amendment — granting suffrage to a gender that, to this day, still has to fight for equal protection under the law. This country saw a civil rights movement, the abolition of the poll tax, the lowering of the voting age — each a tremendous step forward caused by citizens who suffered and protested and lost a great deal to expand the franchise. This isn’t about party, it’s not about politics, it’s not even about individual interest.

It’s about civic responsibility. It’s about history.

By the time this is published, many states will still allow absentee ballot requests, and some will still allow voter registration. If your home state’s deadline has passed, Vermont allows same-day voter registration — meaning you can go down to the polls (at the Middlebury Town Offices) the day of the election and register right before you vote. Go to go/vote2018, or contact Middlebury’s MiddVote club, and get help filling out your forms and casting your ballot.

Figure out what issues are important to you, research who is running where you live and find out about them. Ask which candidate best fits your vision for this country — what you want for this community of 320 million (and counting). Then fill out your ballot and find a stamp. 

There is no excuse for complacency. We have a responsibility to those who came before, to ourselves and to the next generation to make our voices heard. Those who are in power have no reason to listen to us, no reason to protect the things we care about — unless we vote. I hope that when Nov. 6 comes, you’ll be one of many who watches the election night results knowing that you spoke up — no matter who it was for.

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