Meet Nichanun, a Girls Inc. National Public Policy Intern and rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania. Here, Nichanun has penned a letter of support and encouragement to young and first-time voters throughout the Girls Inc. Network as they prepare to make their voices heard through their vote come November.
Dear young voters,
It has really been quite a year – the pandemic looming on one end and the failure of leaders to guide us safely through this difficult time on the other. But troubles of this scale aren’t new. Over the last decade, we have been through many challenges and movements that demand change. The #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and affordable healthcare just to name a few.
Considering the amount of chaos we face, it is easy for us kids, just born to the world, to feel disillusioned. We are bombarded with bad news and hopelessness on almost a daily basis. Millennials reported feeling especially disillusioned by both presidential candidates before the election in 2016, which might have explained why voter turnout was lower among young voters. On top of that, voting isn’t always easy. The logistical challenges may result in many first-time voters missing the registration deadline, or having registration difficulties prevent us from registering. A lot of us might have trouble locating polling places and taking time off our daily lives to vote. The youngest voters are among the least engaged groups by campaigns, which often means we are the least likely to be informed about government responsibilities and how to be politically engaged. It’s no wonder then that in the 2018 midterm elections, the voting rate among 18-19 year olds was 23% and the youth turnout rate for 18-29 year olds was 28%. In 2016, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, about 40% of the youngest demographic (18-29) voted, compared to 70% of the oldest demographic (60+).
Despite all the hurdles, though, this low voter turnout needs to change. Voting isn’t just a symbolic act. It affects who we trust to make policies that affect our lives and democracy.
What Are You Voting For This November?
- County and city government positions that are up for local election in some states. Police chief and local school board roles are responsible for the day-to-day running of services and infrastructure in your area.
- State ballot measures which allow you to vote for or against proposed policies in your state.
- Judicial Elections which are for electing State Supreme Courts and Intermediate Appellate Court which are for hearing appeals of legal cases.
- State legislators who represent districts by drafting and voting on state laws, as well as looking after the bureaucratic implementation of public policy.
- Governors who are in charge of running the state. They work to approve the state budget (which affects how much money goes into healthcare, education, etc.); prepare for states of emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic; and oversee the state executive branch. In some states, other executive positions like the Attorney General and Secretary of State are also electable positions.
- The Congress which is in charge of making our federal laws. The Senate confirms the appointment of federal judges who have life tenure while both the House and Senate propose and vote on legislation. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 out of 100 seats in the Senate are up for grabs (12 Democratic seats and 23 Republican Seats).
- The President who is the person in charge of enforcing federal laws and signing legislation into law or vetoing bills enacted by Congress. This person is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces who appoints heads of federal agencies and the Cabinet, such as the Secretary of Education and Attorney General, and who nominates judges to federal courts when spots become available like Justices to the Supreme Court.
If the above list hasn’t convinced you that your vote matters, then click here for Queen Bey’s charge to “vote like your life depends on it.” There is power in the voices of informed, persevering, and engaged youth. We are strong, smart, and bold citizens of today and the future – so make sure your voice counts in this election.
At the very least, registering to vote gives us power to hold our representatives accountable to the promises they made. It puts you onto the radar of your candidates. It exposes you to their policy plans, how they respond to national crises, and the prevalent issues in your local community. Okay people, now let’s get in formation.
Thanks to Nichanun for the shared resources and inspiring words! We wish her the best as she continues with her schooling, studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics and minoring in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Nichanun also loves competing in debate tournaments, reading Harry Potter, and reflecting on ways to make society more equitable.