About 54% of Americans took to the polling stations to vote in the 2008 presidential elections. And when looking at millennials between the ages of 18-29, that percentage drops slightly to just over 50%. So needless to say, there's a certain level of voter apathy we're facing.
Here's a run-down of five millennials who do not plan to vote in the November 2012 elections. But they are by no means fixed in their ways ... I encourage you to use this platform to address their specific concerns and encourage them about the importance of voting.
Millennial #1: I don't know enough and I'm frustrated with our political system and candidates: "First of all, I do believe that voting is a part of one's civic duty. However, my understanding of civic duty involves a commitment to bettering society. In order to do this in regards to electing government officials, I believe that one must be knowledgeable about not only the candidates and their stance on significant challenges that our country faces, but also well informed about these challenges. I’m very aware of the fact that I know little about foreign policy and the economy. One might readily suggest that I go out and correct this ignorance by educating myself on these issues — in fact, many have. Yet, the level of understanding that I require to meet the standard I have set for myself to feel confident in my vote is not one that I gain within this short period before Election Day.
“Trust the politicians,” one might urge, they have more expertise. That’s my second qualm. How much can we actually trust our candidates and the government to implement the policies that they have dedicated themselves to delivering? Every election season, debates are characterized by candidates pointing out their opponent’s unfulfilled promises. These shortcomings may be the nature of our political system. One might say that we have to do the best with what we have. Unfortunately for me, that’s not good enough.
Although I'm certain that there are valid rebuttals to all of my reasons, it is the cumulative effect of my reservations that ultimately is keeping me from confidently casting my vote this election season."
Millennial #2: One vote doesn't matter: "I am not voting in the presidential election because, in the aggregate of things, my vote as an individual does not count. We live in too large of a society for the basic principles of democratic voting to be implemented, so it creates a scenario in which the votes of a few rational individuals are subjugated to the rhetoric of a fickle mob. Our two-party system doesn't help, either. The two-party system polarizes the mobs and inhibits progress at the price of party loyalty. These issues, among others, are reasons of why I choose not to vote. It isn't an issue of voter apathy, it is an issue with voter efficacy."
Millennial #3: My vote won't change anything: "I don't plan to vote this year, because I am keenly aware that I live in a town where the overwhelming majority of fellow students and neighbors will vote for particular candidates — many of them via straight ticket voting. Whether it is overly pessimistic or illogical to think this way, I believe my vote will have no bearing on the election results, since all of my local neighbors will have voted overwhelmingly for particular candidates. Therefore, my vote will either fall into the predetermined victorious majority or will make no significant difference in selecting elected officials. If I lived in an area where political views were more split, then I'm certain that my voting behavior and opinion about the political process would change."
Millennial #4: One vote doesn't matter, it's not our duty to vote and the candidates are virtually the same: "I did plan to vote, however, I took a job overseas on short notice, leaving me little to no time to deal with absentee forms. Would I have liked to vote? Yes. Am I by any means heartbroken? No, not really. Am I a bad American for not caring? I don’t think so, and I have a few reasons why.
1) The majority of the time, an individual vote has a near infinitesimal chance of deciding an election, therefore had that vote not been cast no one would have been the wiser. The reasoning for this is called the Paradox of Voting. The crux of this idea is that the only time one-vote matters is when it is the decisive vote. You can imagine how rarely one can expect to cast a decisive vote. Imagine well over 100 million people casting their votes (through the filter of the Electoral College) how little of a chance your one vote is likely to be decisive. Here's the math: in a swing-state with a small population (Colorado, New Mexico), at best, statisticians guess each citizen has a 1 in 10 million chance. Those odds jump to 1 in 1 billion in larger non-swing states (New York, California, Texas). I’d have better odds playing Powerball, the only difference being I get a fuzzy patriotic feeling from voting.
2) I don’t think there is a duty to vote. Some people probably should vote and some probably shouldn’t (Honey Boo Boo types). I don’t think that a lot of people are well-informed about their various choices therefore shouldn’t pollute the pool of informed voters. Most people know more about their favorite reality show than presidential candidates, which is fine if that’s what makes them happy (because really what else is there in life except happiness, however simple the source might be). Though the political/educated class (such as myself) might find that abhorrent, it is a fact of life. Therefore, I would rather have that ill-informed person not vote and cancel out my informed vote. I think that there is no need for everyone, or even most people to vote, however, if you do vote you should vote well. This is because good governance and good policies have many properties of a ‘public good’ with far-reaching effects beyond the voting individual. Not voting is fine, but if you do, you should be informed.
3) I don’t see much difference between the two candidates. In rhetoric, yes; in practice, no. They do not support gay marriage, will continue the ‘war on terror’ or more aptly called our “war of terror,” and continue to erode our civil liberties. As much as Obama supporters saw and ‘Hope (d)’ for change from Bush era policies, a majority of the time they’ve changed only to be taken to a further extent (drone war, kill list, PATRIOT Act, bailouts, & many more). For those same people seeking change four years ago, Romney represents more of the status quo. That’s why when I was planning to vote, I was going to cast my ballot for the libertarian Gary Johnson. As futile as voting is, voting for a libertarian is probably the most futile. However, it made me feel good to, no matter how little it counts for, make my voice heard in the process. But it’s the same reason I opt-out during TSA screenings – because it soothes my conscience, not because I expect to make a difference."
Millennial #5: I don't know enough and the candidates seem to be the same: "For me voting is about making an educated decision and choosing a candidate based on knowledge of the two. At this point, I don't know enough about either of the candidates' political stances to push me in either direction. I could easily make a vote based on my overall affinity for a general conservative or liberal platform; however, I think elections have become much more than that. This race isn't about liberal versus conservative, or Republican versus Democrat. The two candidates, yes, from what little I know about them, have both flip-flopped, vacillated, shown tremendous weakness, and struggled to assure me of a quality option while covering the entire political spectrum. I am not too fond of either candidate, but in the end, I will most definitely support whichever candidate is elected come November. Do I vote for an incumbent who has most recently seemed incompetent, or do I vote for a newcomer who doesn't know too much about politics?
I honestly have no idea ... someone should educate me here, because many students my age don't know enough about either of the candidates."