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
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.
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.