Editors note: A previous version of this story contained an additional image at the top. That image has been removed to avoid a potential dispute over photo permissions.
Why do you vote? It’s a simple question, yet not always easy to answer.
TACOMA — Personally, it took me a while to offer anything remotely eloquent or thoughtful (and even that’s debatable) to the question at the top of this post.
I vote because I know it’s an important action to take as an engaged and active citizen. I vote because I hope that as a member of a participatory democratic process my voice can and will be heard. But ultimately, I vote because many people my age do not. By taking action I hope to make my generation become more engaged in our political system.
The United States Census Bureau reports that during the 2008 Presidential election 41% of 18 to 20-year olds said they voted, and 46.6% of 21 to 24-year olds said the same. That isn’t a great turnout, especially compared to the 68.1% among voters 65 and older, but it’s a huge step up from the 2000 election when participation hovered around 30% for the younger set.
I’m not in the 18 to 24 bracket of young voters that tend to avoid political engagement, but I’m not far from it. Many have tried to explain the lack of participation from this generation but come up short — it could result from a parental example of not voting, or just a sense of apathy towards the system. Instead of seeking to explain why voters under 25 aren’t turning out, in the last few years we have seen a rise in events simply encouraging young citizens to step up and vote.
From encouraging young people to Rock the Vote or informing students to Vote or Die, groups have been working to boost participation and make voting accessible and even cool. In Washington State, Secretary of State Sam Reed started the College Civics Week program early in his term. The program is student-led and encourages 18 to 24-year-olds to take pride in their role as active citizens and encourage their peers to vote.
In conjunction with College Civics Week, the UW Tacoma is hosting “Why We Vote” on Thursday, April 19 at 6:30pm. Eric Lint, the Associated Students of University of Washington at Tacoma Legislative Liaison, helped set up the event along with his work managing all of the political activities for ASUWT. He will act as host on Thursday.
Lint described the event as primarily focused on civics and participation from the youth populations as well as the larger Pierce County community. The evening will include keynote speakers Secretary Reed, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, as well as a panel discussion. The panelists are ASUWT President Ally Molloy, Tacoma’s News Tribune opinion page editor and part-time UWT lecturer Patrick O’Callahan and Communications Director at the Washington Bus Alex Miller.
These speakers and panelists have taken the time to identify why they take action and vote, but this event is a perfect opportunity for us to to all ask ourselves why we vote. So tell us:
Why do you vote?