Itís a traditional complaint: young people often feel their voices go unheard. They say that those in power donít listen to their concerns and donít care what they think, and so they fail to see the importance of voting. What they donít realize, though, is that by registering to vote, they have a chance to express their opinions and to put people in power who represent the issues that matter most to them. Whether or not they realize it, young people have the ability to ignite change and create a better future.
Itís a lesson theyíre not learning. According to a study by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, people between the ages of 18 and 30 now represent the largest potential voting block in the country, but often donít even register. Their participation at the polls can have a huge impact on an election. We all remember the 2000 presidential election. That election was decided by less than 600 votes Ė less than the number of people in a lot of high schools. Every year across this state, elections are decided by similarly small margins, and the effects on your day-to-day life can be just as dramatic.
In the modern political arena, there seems to be a divide between candidates and young people. On first glance, it seems puzzling: Why, if young adults are such a huge potential voting block, are their voices not often heard? Itís a chicken-and-egg scenario: They donít vote because their concerns arenít aired, but their concerns arenít aired because they donít vote.
Young people need to take back the system, and thereís only one place to start. By exercising their right to vote, people ensure that things that matter to them are heard by those who represent them. Serious issues face the youth of our community Ė the lack of good-paying jobs, the high price of homes, the high cost of college, and on and on. According to the U.S. Census, people between the ages of 18 to 34 made up 23 percent of the insured in 2001.
People who vote have the ability to shape the future of our democracy Ė and our world. We must encourage Central New Yorkers Ė and especially young ones Ė to actively participate in our democratic process.
Registering is quick and easy Ė you can do so by calling 1-800-FOR-VOTE or the Onondaga County Board of Elections at 315-435-8683, or by visiting www.elections.state.ny.us. I also have informative literature on representative democracy in my district office at 333 East Washington Street, Room 840, in Syracuse. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me by calling 315-428-9651, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.