By: Dionne Smith, Editor-in-Chief
Once again, as history has shown time and time again, the young voter turnout in Maine on Super Tuesday was lower than all other age groups. As someone who is in the age group, I can’t help but feel a lot of disappointment, and confusion. According to the Washington Post, voters between the age of 17-29 counted for 15% of voters. People ages 30-44 counted for 19% of the voters. Ages 45-64 and 65+ counted for 33% of the voters. While the exit polls are not an end all-be all, it’s a good reference to have.
Continuously, young people show up the least at the polls. Not just here, but nationally. As a college student, I can think of a few ideas as to why the number may be so low. One of the reasons being that students are already extremely busy. The majority of USM students are commuters, and they usually have jobs along with their classes. There is a possibility that these students are just too busy to take time out of their day to go vote. When you have two classes in one day and a job immediately after classes and a mountainous amount of other things happening, it’s possible that students just opt to not vote in the end, even if they wanted to.
Overall, the percentage of eligible citizens who voted in the other states increased from 2016 according to the Harvard Institute of Politics. However, in some states, voters aged 18-29 decreased in comparison to four years ago. On the other side of the spectrum, some states saw stark increases in voter turnout in the 65+ age group; South Carolina showing a large 124% increase. In comparison to the largest increase in voters 18-29, which was at 38% in Virginia, I can’t help but wonder where this comes from.
The New York Times and many other sources reported extremely long lines. Voters were stuck for hours waiting to vote, hours that people with classes or jobs or mostly any responsibilities usually don’t have. How many voters did we lose to these long lines? In Houston, aging voting machines was also a problem. They also reported long lines in California, the state that held the most potential delegates on Tuesday. Here in Portland, The Portland Press Herald reported that several towns reported running out of ballots on Tuesday. On such an important day, these glitches are unacceptable and can decrease overall voter turnout.
When I was growing up in New York City, one day in my American Government class, the topic of voting arised and some students said that they just don’t care about voting. They felt like no matter what, their voices wouldn’t be heard, and that it was a waste of time for them. There needs to be an improvement in this relationship. An increase in voting registration activities that make it easy for high school students to register to vote would help ease students into the process, instead of a daunting registration line that may discourage them.
One solution to this that I wish would happen already is declaring a national holiday for Election Day every four years, and especially for days like Super Tuesday, bringing the polls to more college campuses, or alternatively, offering more free, all day transit to and from polling areas. It baffles me that Election Day isn’t already a national holiday. It is extremely important to allow every citizen of this nation fair and equal opportunity to have their voices be heard, and that’s hard when you have to work overtime that day and miss the polls, and vote early.
There are mounds of literature studying young voters, books that try to tackle how to raise the young voter percentage and I’m sure that the literature will not stop, no matter how this 2020 election goes. Young voters are extremely important because they are what make up the future. They are voting for how their futures will be carved. Our government should be helping young voters actually vote, but for now we must try our best to be politically aware, know when voting days are, and try to make every effort to make our voices heard.