The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Opinion: The youth also rise

Photo by Leina’ala Voss.

“Young people just don’t vote these days!”

As a young person and a politically active one at that, this phrase has always been a thorn in my side. Mostly because it has been undeniably true – in the 2020 Super Tuesday primaries, youth turnout (18- to 29-year-olds) failed to reach 20%, according to Tufts CIRCLE, and only a few states exhibited growth in youth turnout before COVID-19 according to John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard Kennedy School.

Youth turnout could be higher, but it is disingenuous to claim that the youth “just don’t vote.”

Youth turnout is hindered by many things. Having to work and deal with college stress can make it hard to keep up with election news (whether general elections, primary elections or special elections) and can prevent people from going to vote in down-ballot elections within their local communities. Figuring out confusing mail-in paperwork can prevent those who are outside of their home state from voting, especially when some ballots aren’t received until after the primary. Disillusionment around who represents the youth and who can properly represent them, as well as a lack of direct call to action to them, have also contributed to young people not going to vote.

All these factors have helped contribute to the low youth turnout. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the stress that many people are facing, but students have felt the impacts of that stress much harder than others. This stress, along with the uncertain future of absentee voting and  potential intimidation at the ballot boxes will have certainly contributed to insecurity around voting for most young people, and thus may lead many young people to consider sitting out this election.

However, just because young people aren’t voting doesn’t mean they aren’t getting their voices heard. All of the young people who have actively organized and participated in protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and other anti-racist causes are being politically active. All of the young people who have been phone banking and text banking for political campaigns and movements are contributing to politics. Everyone who has donated to an organization has contributed to politics. Those who have shared important resources and signed petitions have contributed to politics. We have seen political energy manifest in ways that are more present and arguably more dynamic than a voting record. Yet, unless young people vote on top of all that, all their efforts will inevitably end up stymied by older adults who have the time and resources to vote.

To all Grinnellians out there: Keep fighting the good fight. But if you have the time, I highly encourage you to get registered and vote in the general election. And you don’t have to do it alone – there are many resources out there which help condense and coalesce information on voting and primaries into one place.

For one, go to for a Grinnell college centered site dedicated to helping make sure you are all ready to vote.

For those who are registered in Iowa but are out of state, go to to make sure you are still registered and ready.

Finally, for those considering voting outside of Iowa, please go to to register and ensure you get your voice heard this election.

For those looking for some way to help turn out the vote for others, please go to



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