2020 – The Year of the Young Voter

By Zach Kyner

With a novel virus ravaging the country, devastating natural disasters hammering the coasts of the United States and civil unrest breaking in the streets of major cities across the country, 2020’s general election is poised to be like none other before. 

Republican presidential incumbent Donald Trump is battling democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for a seat as the president of the United States. A popular discussion that arises as the November 3rd election night deadline closes in is the importance of young voters in the general election.

The United States Census Bureau finds that less than 50 percent of young voters – aged 18 to 29 – voted in the general election for the past 40 years. a statistic that is significantly lower than the 75 percent of voters – aged 45 to 60 – who consistently voted in the general election for the past 40 years.

Microeconomics and government teacher Mr. Evan Grotemat explained why that statistic may be so low.

“Younger students just haven’t yet felt the impact of government policy directly,” Mr. Grotemat said. “They haven’t yet experienced government policy impacting their lives in a way that gets them motivated enough to show up to vote and change policy. But once you start to experience those things, seeing part of your paycheck go to taxes and social security, that often becomes the motivator to get engaged in the process.”

Why would a young voter vote if it takes time out of their day, and a change in the oval office will not directly affect their lives? With work, school and fear of catching the novel coronavirus, young voters might be tempted to skip this year’s election. A New York Times article describes this phenomenon as the “Opportunity Cost” of voting and Mr. Grotemat agrees.

“Another thing is, is that when election day rolls around, they are busy doing something, and so they don’t vote because they are busy. Or it’s a really nice day out and ‘I don’t want to wait in line to vote,’ or it’s raining and ‘I don’t want to go out in the rain.’ I think that is just them being young,” Mr. Grotemat said.

Many political scientists, including those from Charlotte Hill from University of California Berkeley, say the 2020 election is poised to deliver a spike in the number of young voters as a result of the political unrest that is present in the United States. Mr. Grotemat thinks that social injustices may have “fired up the base.”

“A lot of the social injustice demonstrations that have taken place over the past months, have gotten a larger number of younger voters to get engaged in the process,” Mr. Grotemat said. “It’s great to demonstrate the First Amendment right, but if you want change, that takes place at the voting booth.”

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