It’s no secret that voters ages 18-29 notoriously do not exercise their right to vote. But is this a fault of character, or in the American education system?
Often, the lack of political enthusiasm is placed on the carelessness of young adulthood, or a candidate’s unsuccessful attempt at being cool with the kids. As a young person, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear someone my age say “politics aren’t my thing” or “I just don’t know that much about politics.” If this were true, then the lack of young voters would be a crisis that democracies all over the world would face each election -- except they don’t.
According to author Jon Hoblein, “The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world. The gap between 18- to 29-year-olds and those over 60... is more than twice as large here than it is in comparable democracies.”
The problem isn’t that young people don’t care enough to vote. I have friends who will claim disinterest in politics -- but the look on their face is one of shame, not pride. Sunshine Hillygus, a Duke University professor, told National Public Radio journalist Barbara Spunt that young voters “are more likely to need education on how to request and fill out an absentee ballot and are more likely to spoil their ballot because they're unfamiliar with it.” This isn’t because young people weren’t paying attention in class; we weren’t taught to vote in high school. It was a praised civil liberty, but the voting process was hardly mentioned. I didn’t know what a voting ballot looked like until I voted for the first time.
The public American education system should prepare young adults for voting. The process of registration should be well-known by the time a student is 18. They should feel confident when they vote for local leaders instead of scratching their head wondering what a “District attorney” does. Young American voters need to be educated on politics, not put down for their lack of political involvement.