Once upon a time, voters aged 18 to 29 made up the voting bloc that surprised our nation. Many pollsters framed this age group as the emerging voter bloc politicians could no longer ignore. That was the rhetoric in 2008, post-elections. Now this age group is being questioned on its legitimacy to pull through in the upcoming elections (November 2nd, cough).
I fall into this category of voters: young, curious, outspoken, opinionated, politically involved and looking for ways to change the political process for the better. I believe in my generation to pull our nation through its roughest and brightest stages, and in order to satisfy such aspirations, we need to be creative in our civic engagement activities. One way could be utilizing social media as a tool to spread the message and build coalitions.
Then there are times when civic engagement is crucial. The upcoming midterm elections is one of those times when electoral activism, or lack there of, could either break or re-establish our voting bloc as a force to be taken seriously.
I ask then, why has it been so difficult to get out the votes among gen-Y? We say we don’t have time, it’s inconvenient, we don’t believe in the system, we don’t see the change or that we simply don’t know enough politics to vote. As a quick note, there are total of 435 seats in the House of Representatives being contested and at least 36 seats in the Senate in the upcoming November midterm elections. Every single state has at least one member of Congress running. That means anyone who is eligible to vote in our country has the power and the right to exercise that vote.
And get this – this can be a fun experience! Scratching your head and thinking, no? Well, here are a few suggestions you and your friends can try. Some of these have been Hyo-tested, some Hyo-witnessed and some I think will add excitement to what seems like a dull task we simply ignore to do.
1. Take an “I voted!” picture and make it your default (scroll down for samples – thanks friends for offering up your pictures!)
2. First time voter? In high school? Propose a competition among your civic/ AP Government/ law classes to get out the most votes
3. Again, first time voter? Gather your friends and document your first experience voting and post it on YouTube
4. Have a healthy competition between the opposing parties or candidates. I’ve been at a party (totally dry) where supporters of opposing parties gathered overnight to watch the polls and had healthy and at times heated discussions
5. Host a sporting event proudly representing your party and have a healthy jab at your opponent
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was able to vote for the first time as a naturalized citizen in the 2008 election, I remember feeling excited and empowered. I also recall my AP government class taught by my lifetime mentor and the healthy discussions my fellow classmates had about our government, our obligations and our duties. Yes, at times it can seem daunting and complicated, as our political system is indeed complex. However, we, as emerging leaders, must not stop at just criticizing and debating whether we agree or disagree, but become proactive about pushing forth the agenda that matters to us.
I guarantee you that once you begin the process of understanding our political system, you will find yourself appreciating what it is and wanting to change what it is not yet. And the “not yet” is what you and I can (and I truly believe this) write into history.