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Some Teens Care About Elections

A few days ago I noticed my daughter at the dining room table, huddled over a stack of papers and intently scribbling in a notebook. She occasionally glanced at her laptop or rifled through a well-worn booklet marked with Post-its. Then came a few dramatic sighs and the pulling of hair, which in teen speak usually means, "I've come to the end of my rope, take me to Starbucks."

I'd seen this scenario before, and I figured she was studying for an exam, until she asked me, "Who the hell are all these judges?"

It was then I realized that my daughter – who had registered to vote as soon as she turned 18 earlier this year – had been spending all this time to prepare for her first time casting a ballot. I didn't have the heart to tell her that all of my important election decisions came from my Facebook feed and a few shakes of a Magic 8 Ball.

She approached this election like she was preparing for the SATs, spending hours pouring over voter information pamphlets and cross referencing names with news articles and profiles on the web. She studied each and every state and county measure. She checked out candidates' history on issues like education, the environment and LGBT rights. By the time the election rolled around, not only would she be prepared to vote, but she could probably run for office, too.

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Unfortunately, not many millennials shared her enthusiasm for this midterm election. NBC News just posted some data about last night's voter turnout, and it's bleak: only 12 percent of voters were under 30, compared to 2012, when 19 percent of voters were under 30. In a survey released last week by Harvard, while 66 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 say they are registered to vote, only 18 percent consider themselves to be politically engaged or active.

With a lack of young people participating, ultimately the election didn't turn out the way my daughter wanted, something I'm sure she'll be aiming to fix by the time the next one rolls around.

Even a highly-publicized PSA, released last month by Rock The Vote and aimed at getting young voters to head to the polls for the midterm election, bore out these statistics. It was discovered that many of the young celebrities in the video weren't practicing what they preached: "Girls" creator and actress Lena Dunham, "Orange is the New Black" actress Natasha Lyonne, "Rich Kids of Beverly Hills" star E.J. Johnson and "Glee" actor Darren Criss hadn't voted in the last midterm election.

With a lack of young people participating, ultimately the election didn't turn out the way my daughter wanted, something I'm sure she'll be aiming to fix by the time the next one rolls around. But I felt such a great deal of pride as I watched her embrace the process and cast her very first ballot in her very first election. Her enthusiasm even rubbed off on me – I did a little more studying up on the candidates and the issues than I usually do.

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Although I still relied on my Magic 8 ball, because come on – who are all these judges?

Image by Marsha Takeda-Morrison

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