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OPINION: Mobilized young people have increased early voter turnout

Early voting has achieved record attendance across the country and especially among younger voters, reaching 3 million cast ballots by voters ages 18-25 by Oct. 21, which is 213,613 more than in 2016, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Social media activism has mobilized the youth to fulfill this important civic duty. Candidates can connect directly with constituents on Facebook and Twitter, nonprofit groups produce ads to remind users to vote and young people can donate to candidates and invest in their own futures. 

Social media grants a platform to young people to amplify their voices, keep themselves informed and keep each other accountable when the time comes to vote.

Early polling locations have seen record-breaking turnouts this year, reaching more than 62 million ballots as of Oct. 26, according to NBC News. In 2016, only 58.3 million early votes were cast before Election Day, according to CNN. 

Young people make up 37% of eligible voters, according to CNN, and social media has given them the platform to emphasize the importance of civic engagement. A 2018 poll by CIRCLE found that social media activism directly leads to offline activism, as in voting and contributing to candidates’ campaigns. 

The poll also found that 47% of people ages 18-24 heard about the 2018 midterm election through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter. Some social media sites have features that allow users to show that they have voted on their profiles, like profile photo stickers and frames. 

Even though early voting turnout has increased substantially, lines to vote are not long on and around the USF Tampa campus. The voting location at USF TECO Hall had no line on Oct. 26, and the citizens in line at the Temple Terrace Public Library did not have to wait long. 

“Not even 10 minutes,” Tampa resident Cynthia Akins said about her wait time at the library.

Each voting location also has a vote-by-mail drop-off location for citizens who want to continue to protect themselves against COVID-19. 

Social media activism has influenced the increase in youth voter turnout and early voting attendance. The short lines and mobilization of young voters leaves no excuse for citizens above the age of 18 to not vote.