This last Election Day produced the worst voter turnout since 1942—only 36.3 percent of eligible voters actually voted. Young liberals lament the fact that the Republican Party took control of the United States Senate. A majority of young people voted Democrat, as expected, but only 13 percent of young people voted. As political analysts everywhere are asking, why the low turnout? Although an abysmal 28.8 percent of the eligible population in New York came out, it’s worth noting that the GOP has caught up to the Democrats in the key under-30 demographic. In North Carolina, the Democrats only got 54 percent of the young vote this year, compared to the 71 percent Democratic Senate candidates received in 2008. This trend could easily continue, but it will not make a difference until a more significant percentage of youths show up on Election Day.
With constant sharing and re-sharing of political news on Facebook and Twitter feeds, one would think young people would be more inclined than ever to vote. But Americans are increasingly losing faith in the government—particularly the two-party system—and perhaps this lack of faith has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become disgruntled, we feel our votes don’t matter, too many of us stop voting and then those who do really don’t matter.
Everyone has that one friend on Facebook who reminds you every year, “If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain.” But corporations own Congress and, understandably, voters feel the fruitlessness of voting. Their measly vote won’t fix the gerrymandering, the tradition of buying votes or the broken two-party system. The well-meaning Facebook friend has a point, though. Not voting is not going to change anything, especially if the numbers keep shrinking and the views of millennial aren’t represented by their votes.
What will motivate voters, then? Maybe the increasing number of GOP seats in the House and Senate will motivate liberal voters to go out next time. Perhaps this round will be a wake-up call. Frankly, it is one thing to simply voice your opinion on the government, but there are more effective ways to introduce change, whether through voting, lobbying or other kinds of activism.
It might be more accurate, then, to say, “You cannot complain if you are doing nothing.” After this election, voting might become more effective as more people vote—especially those who complain about the money in politics and want to get it out of politics.
A major movement toward third-party voting might be beneficial. The idea of stepping outside of the two-party system seems absurd, but young voters are more apt to see that the parties are not as different as the media makes them out to be. A major movement—targeting millennials, especially—to vote third party might make young voters feel as if they can make some sort of difference.