Voting is a Privilege

Tyler, an advocate and Educate Tomorrow Changemaker attending Grand Valley State University, shares the view that voting is a privilege. 

When I was a kid, I was not interested in voting. My parents voted in every election, and when I was “old enough” in their eyes, they said I should grow up to be a voter because it was my responsibility as an American. I didn’t know what that meant. I continued not to hold an interest in voting throughout high school, despite taking a very informative political science class. I was a middle-class Christian white kid, nothing affected me, so why should I care?

I didn’t care about voting until after I came out and politicians were debating about my truth day after day. My rights had been a topic of debate for a while, but I didn’t pay attention until they affected me directly.

I like to think that I am the odd case. Young people have experienced the 45th president and his 4 years in a different way than I have. They experienced the pandemic differently as well, with many of them experiencing a lapse or a delay in education and social interaction. They are far more aware of the issues facing the country than I ever was because they are experiencing them more personally.

The question isn’t “why don’t they understand the importance of voting?” it’s “why aren’t they voting?” The simple answer is accessibility. Most of today’s young people have millennials as parents, and millennials have been riding the struggle bus for as long as I can remember. If the struggle bus was an actual bus that stopped at polling places, I am sure the young voter turnout would be astounding, because most young voters don’t have a car or a license. Their parents work 40+ hours a week each, meaning that they are unlikely to be able to give them a ride to the polling location or even vote themselves without losing a significant amount of pay. In addition, to cast a fully informed vote, voters must research each of the candidates on their own time, a commodity that not a lot of us have these days.

As a result of these resources being available only to the same class of people (middle-upper class, mostly white), not much is changing and not much will change. Many of the people that are making laws for the whole country grew up during the civil rights movement, giving them a perspective that is vastly disconnected from the state of affairs today. If more young people were to vote, the actual people’s choices would be a lot harder for them to ignore or turn down. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. A small blessing is that the State of Michigan accepts online voter registration and absentee ballots. This makes voting more accessible, especially to those with a printer. To the people whose parents didn’t vote because of the rules in favor of the wealthy: now is the chance to take back your voice. Voting does make a difference, but we can’t do it without you.

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