Maroon 5, Mark Ronson, and Pharrell Williams all want you to vote.
Through organizations like Rock the Vote and Vote 4 Stuff, they are working to motivate the youth of America to get involved and vote, to participate in their futures, and to let their voices be heard.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 50 percent of people in the 18 to 24 year old age bracket are registered to vote, and of those registered, only 39 percent of them voted in 2010–or only or 19 percent of all youth. Twenty-three percent of all youth voted in 2012 in the presidential election. These 18 to 24 year olds make up 21 percent of all of the eligible voters in the United States, and with only a fourth of them making it to the polls, they are giving away the most efficient and powerful tool they have to make political changes.
Rick Eiden is executive vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 324 in Buena Park. His union negotiates wages and benefits for retail workers in Southern Calfornia. Eiden spends a lot of his time working with the Orange County Labor Federation researching and endorsing candidates.
“Your vote is your voice in this country, and (you have to use it) to have a say in important issues that affect you and your community” Eiden said. “Every aspect of our lives is affected by politics. Elected officials on Water Boards, School Boards, City Councils, State Legislators and Federal Legislators make decisions (for us).”
It’s important to do more than vote, said Peter Mathews, professor of political science at Cypress College, author and political analyst. “You’ve got to be informed, first of all, about the issues before voting, and then you’ve got to also let the elected officials know that you’re awake and ready to follow what the elected officials are doing once they’re elected.” Voters have to be educated and active, he said.
They have to protest peacefully, call and meet with elected officials, do email campaigns, and use social media. Matthews addresses this topic in his book, “Dollar Democracy: with Liberty and Justice for Some – How to Reclaim the American Dream for All.” It is important for the 18 to 24 year olds to vote, Eiden said. “Not voting allows for other generations of our population to dictate the future of society…. A democracy is sustained by civic participation by all groups.” Eiden said issues are being debated everyday that will affect future generations including: education, healthcare, the right to choose, and gun control.
“It’s absolutely important (the youth vote) because then they can have a greater say in what the country does for their generation,” Matthews said, “not just the older generation.”
He said previous generations had a lot more opportunities provided them when they were growing up. Government provided them free college tuition in California. They enjoyed affordable text books. “But this generation doesn’t have those benefits anymore, because it was taken away by a few elites from the previous generation. It’s not only an Elite vs. Regular People gap, there’s a gap between generations. That’s why the younger people have to start voting.”
Eiden’s opinion why 18 to 24 year olds aren’t as excited about being eligible to vote as they are about the other privileges they enjoy when they become an adults is the lack of quality candidates. This has played a significant role in voter frustration.” Voting for the same congressional representative every year with almost no noticeable progress being made in this country makes it challenging to motivate voters. We saw incredible turn out numbers in the presidential election in 2008 with the anticipation that a young, African American candidate…could make a difference in this country.”
The results from polls show that many of people who either aren’t registered to vote or who choose not to vote say that it’s because they feel their vote doesn’t count.
Eiden disagreed by saying, “EVERY VOTE COUNTS! Numerous elections are won or lost every cycle by less than 100 votes. The OC First Supervisorial special election was just held on Jan. 27 and the Labor candidate, Lou Correa, lost by only 45 votes.”
The North Orange County Community College District’s Measure J Bond Issue won by only 15 votes, but is still being challenged in the courts.
“I think it’s a reflection of the overall voter alienation permeating our society,” Matthews said. “They’ve dropped out of the system, compared to the 1960’s and 70’s. The reason they’ve dropped out is because they feel the people they elected were bought off by their campaign donors and by lobbyists. It’s called voter alienation, as opposed to apathy.”
Matthew said it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The less they vote, the less their vote will count. “If there’s an informed vote, and if people actually do more than vote; they demonstrate, agitate, educate, and demand social justice and opportunity, then their votes will count.”
To register to vote in California, you must be a United States citizen, a resident of California, 18 years of age or older on Election Day, not in prison or on parole, and not found by a court to be mentally incompetent. Becky Rojas, Administrative Assistant for the Cypress College, has Voter Registration forms for students in the Student Activities Center, or you can register online at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/.