Youth Participation in Politics

On Sep. 29, the Wilson College Government Association (WCGA) sent out a call to action, reminding students to register to vote for the upcoming presidential election in 2016. The registration for the upcoming election was to be completed by Oct. 5.

“Originally we were going to have a little table [in Lenfest Commons] where a WCGA member would sit there and students could come and register to vote online,” notes Cody Dunlap, the Constitution and Bylaws Chairperson of the WCGA. “Unfortunately that didn’t quite work out. . . and then we eventually just sent out the email.”

“Quite frankly,” Dunlap continues, “with this particular project, we were really thinking that students would want to get involved, would want to register to vote.”

“A lot of the people in WCGA are fairly involved in politics,” observes Krista Dewald, Vice President of the WCGA, “If nobody votes how is their voice going to be represented? How are things are going to change?”

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1964 the votership among the 18-24 year-old demographic was 50.9 percent dropping to a little over 40 percent by the late 70’s. It dropped again close to 35 percent in 1988 but increased to 45 percent by 1992. It’s all time lowest participation was in 1996 and 2000 at just barely over 30 percent. The last census taken in 2012 showed the 18-24 year-olds at 38 percent participation.

As the study notes, the decline in voting rates discussed is partially due to “the increase in the noncitizen population, which, by definition, does not vote.

Voting rates for the 18-29 year old demographic are about 45 percent as of 2012, up from 39.6 percent in 1996. The 30-44 year age range is at 59.5 percent, the 45 to 64 year olds are at 67.9 percent, and the 65 and older demographic is at 72 percent participation.

Americans 65 years of age and older have typically had voting rates higher than all other age groups. The phenomenon is a fairly recent development in American elections.

Across the board, voting and registration rates are historically higher in years with presidential elections than in congressional election years.

For those who have registered to vote, the first Democratic Primary Debate was held by CNN on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Wynn, Las Vegas. The next debate will be the GOP debate held by CNBC on Oct. 28 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa followed by a Democratic debate on Nov. 14.

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