Without degrees, careers or even sometimes transportation, young people have been forced to get creative in order to be heard. Protests, marches and the advent of social media provide increased visibility and the ability to affect change for young people. The most conventional practice of democracy, however, is voting. The 2018 midterm elections could allow for the country’s leaders to realize the interests and opinions of its younger citizens, which can only be accessed if they decide to vote. According to Electproject.org, voters 18 to 24 have consistently lower turnout rates than their older counterparts. 18 to 24 year olds have turnout rates between twenty and forty percent, while thirty to forty-four year olds range from approximately forty to sixty percent.
Despite the trend of voter apathy among young people, East Chapel Hill students are hoping to break the pattern. This is especially true for senior Jackie Broz. “I’ve always been super excited to vote,” Broz said. “It’s always something I’ve looked forward to.” It is not a coincidence so many seniors are gearing up to vote at East. Chapel Hill is a convergence of factors promote political activism, which could increase the voter turnout beyond that of neighboring towns and even states.
“I think our turnout in Chapel Hill will be higher because teachers at East are very encouraging of political involvement,” said Broz. “Last year there was the ‘Enough’ march, there are so many political clubs at our school, and I think it’s a pretty common discussion… It’s something East students are very conscious of.”
It is important to note that Chapel Hill is not impervious to voter apathy. Luke Vermeer, East Student Body President, helped to administer a voter registration drive that resulted in only ten registrants.
“From what I’ve seen here, young people do know things about politics and do care, but it seems like that translation from the opinion to the vote isn’t there,” said Vermeer.
Vermeer believes a possible factor for this disparity could be that students have yet to see the impacts of what they have been taught about politics.
“Something that might influence apathy in the national election is that they don’t see the way those results influence their daily lives,” Vermeer said. “I guess in a Student Government election there’s an easier to see connection between the result and the effect on their lives… I think [apathy] existed but not to the same degree that it does in a national election.”
Senior Jaiden Ashford provides another possibility for voter apathy.
“I feel like [young people] may be dismissive because older people aren’t seen as progressive…they’re seen as from another time,” said Ashford. “They’re not tuned towards us as much as they are towards 30 year olds with jobs and careers.”
Ashford himself is tentative about voting in the midterm elections.
“I feel uninformed about the issues that are being voted on and what candidates are pushing for,” he said.
However, Ashford is not lazy or indifferent.
“I think [voting] is important because it’s important for everyone’s opinions and views to be heard and have some impact,” he said. “Even if a candidate that young people supported loses, they had some support.”
Ashford’s perspective highlights that the fear of being uninformed is enough to prevent a young person from voting, although this does not indicate a lack of interest in the state of the country.
Whether the power of young voters will be enough to influence the outcome of the midterms is yet to be determined, although Vermeer is sure of one thing.
“When more people vote everything is possible. In hindsight [elections] may not all be significant, but leading up they all have the chance to be.”
By Trinity Casimir, Staff Writer