Young Latinx voters are emerging as one of the most influential groups in politics. Yet, when we look at the statistics for young voters - and especially young Latinx voters - it paints a bleak picture. Despite being an ever-growing part of the country, people aged 18-20 have the lowest voter turnout rate at 46.1% of eligible voters showing up to the polls, according to US Census data*. More than half of eligible young voters decide to throw away their vote. I’m not here to dissect the reasons why this is happening, only to convince you that your vote matters. Whether or not you choose to believe it, young people are highly influenced by the policies that are put into place by our frankly old and outdated government.
As an 18-year-old entering college, the political system affects me every single day. Important issues like having -or not having- a free public college education system, student loan debt forgiveness, and in-person vs online classes in the middle of a pandemic are all decided by the governments that we largely choose not to bother ourselves with. A true government cannot be legitimate if the majority of the people do not go out in support of it, and young voters like you and me need to start having our fair say by getting involved in the political process.
Every year, the number of eligible Hispanic voters goes up, and every year Latinx voters don’t show up to the polls. It’s simple: eligible Hispanic voters just don’t go out to vote. According to polling from 2016, although 57% of all Hispanic voters are dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed, Hispanic and Asian voters show up to the polls at rates sometimes more than 15% less than Black and white voters**. When we look even further at the subsections of Latinx voters, the second lowest voter turnout rate is Hispanic voters aged 18-29***, but according to pewresearch data, 44% of all Hispanic voters are millennials**, making young people the largest Latinx demographic. Essentially, millennial Latinx voters make up the most potentially influential group of all Latinx voters, and vote at one of the lowest rates. So, at the highest offices in our country, we are throwing away our chance at fair and equal representation.
To young people all I can say is register to vote. All the data that I collected from 2016 concerns millennials, but now Gen Z also has a chance to register and make a difference. We have so much power in the electoral system, but we are letting it go to waste when we don’t register ourselves. Don’t let Gen Z follow on the same path- when we register to vote in large masses, our government will know how much we matter. If you have ever taken a second to look at who is making our laws in the House and the Senate, you would know that the average age for Senators is 62.9 years and the average age for House members is 57.6. Our laws are largely created by people far removed from our generation who are voted in by more people that are far removed from our generation. It’s a cycle that we allow and contribute to when us Gen Z and millennial voters don’t turn up to vote. Many studies have been done to show that when you register to vote, you are more likely to vote because that makes it easier to get out on election day. College-aged Latinx voters like you and me can make a real difference in this election.
There has been mostly data, and data doesn’t directly tell you much about why you should get out and vote, so here’s what the data tells me. It tells me that there is a large group of people who feel dissatisfied and disappointed at our government but doesn’t feel like they have the power to change anything. It tells me that there is a large population of people who don't realize how much their vote matters. It tells me that there is a large group of people who don’t realize they have the power to change the world. After 2016, I can see why many people feel like their vote doesn’t matter. Looking at the electoral college, it might feel like our votes don’t have any impact at all, which if we look at the states, most of them are very decisively won. Instead of looking at the states, we need to look at the individual counties. In the individual counties are where the votes are sometimes won or lost by one person or two people, and that is where we make our difference at the national level. I don’t know what any of you reading this are going to do on the national Election Day, but the first step is today by registering to vote.