For Americans, turning 18 comes with a new sense of independence, and many more responsibilities — one of which is voting.
Young people in the US are infamously known for putting this important civic duty on the back burner. In fact, less than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 participated in presidential elections.
The reasons for young people’s lack of engagement in voting vary. Some aren’t interested in politics, and others face barriers when it comes to registering to vote or heading to the polls. Here are five things young Americans should know about the logistics of voting and why their vote matters.
1. Young People Make Up More Than One-Third of Eligible Voters
Millennials and members of Generation Z hold a significant amount of electoral power. In 2020, millennials amounted to 27% of eligible voters, while Gen Z make up 10%, according to Pew Research Center. This means that young people will represent more than one-third of the electorate for this year’s presidential election.
However, this electoral power can only come to fruition if you actually vote.
2. American Youth Have One of the Lowest Voter Turnouts in the World
The US has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world. The turnout rate for voters under 30 is 38% below the rate for voters under 60 in the US. This gap is more than twice as large in the US than it is in comparable democracies, like Canada and Germany.
Since the 1980s, the American youth voter turnout rate for presidential elections has hovered below 50%. The rates are even lower for midterm elections, with only around 20% of youth voters participating.
However, there are already signs of improvement. In the 2018 midterm election, voter turnout rates among all voting ages were higher than they were in 2014. But 18- to 29-year-olds had the largest percentage point increase for any age group, jumping from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018.
3. Gen Z Will Be the Most Diverse and Educated Generation Ever
Gen Z has earned the title of the most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever, according to Pew Research Center. Non-Hispanic white people make up a bare majority (52%) of the population, and 22% of Gen Z members have at least one immigrant parent.
Gen Z is also on track to becoming the best-educated generation yet, with its oldest members enrolling in college at a significantly higher rate than millennials were at a comparable age.
All of this is to say that young Americans look and think a lot differently than older generations. By exercising your right to vote in this election, you will be voicing your opinion on policies that will shape your life for the years and decades to come.
4. You Can Choose Where You Vote as a College Student
This may not apply to you for the 2020 election because of changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you are a college student living on campus, you have a choice to make about where you want to vote.
As a college student, you can choose to register to vote at home or at school since you have dual residency. If you decide to register from your hometown, you will need to sign up for an absentee ballot. If you decide to register on campus, make sure to do so in advance — student voters often face barriers proving their eligibility. Organizations like Campus Vote are also here to help guide you through the process.
5. You Can Pre-Register If You Aren’t of Voting Age Yet
In some states, you can pre-register to vote when you are 16 or 17 years old. This is the case in more than 20 states, including California, Florida, and New York. Check for your state’s specific policies here.
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.