When it comes to democracy, citizens’ powers lie in the fact that we’re able to choose who represents us in government. Whether we decide to use our power or not is a different story.
Once you’re 18, you can legally vote. You’re given the label “adult,” because that’s the age you can actually have a say in how the U.S. is run.
The issue is that a lot of us don’t vote, especially the younger generation. Voting rates have historically varied according to age, but what’s remained consistent is that older Americans generally vote at higher rates than younger Americans. In the 2016 presidential election, this was once again the case, as citizens 65 years and older reported higher turnout (70.9 percent) than 18- to 29-year-olds (46.1 percent).
Some young voters believe one vote won’t really change the outcome since the older generation historically has had the upper hand. However, a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center comparing the millennial electorate and baby boomer electorate, found that millennials, or people ages 20-35, made up almost 31 percent of the overall electorate in the 2016 presidential election, almost equal to the percentage of baby boomers at the time.
In 2018, about 37 percent of Florida’s 18- to 29-year-olds voted in the November midterm elections, compared to 22 percent who voted in 2014, according to research by Dan Smith, a political scientist at UF. That’s especially notable for midterms when turnout is typically lower than in presidential election years.
This turnout boost led to big changes in local elections, even near USF. High on-campus turnout ended up flipping a seat in the state House of Representatives and elected Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) to represent District 63, which includes USF.
If USF students start to show up at the ballot box, the representation in federal, state and local governments will increasingly mirror the younger generation. This will help to prioritize the needs of young people during policy making, decision prioritization and foreign relations.
You should vote because you want to take part in the democratic process. But, also vote because it is your right, power and duty to decide who represents you on the global stage.
When you hold back your vote, you give up the most essential part of being a free citizen in a free country — choice.
Voting for the Florida Presidential Primary is already happening. Hillsborough residents can vote at USF TECO Hall until March 15. Election day is March 17.
Whoever you vote for certainly matters, but actually taking the effort to go and cast your vote matters even more.
Mohamed Abdelmagaid is a junior studying political science and integrated public relations and advertising.