Posted December 10, 2018
By ANABELLA ZAMBRANO
During the past few years, there has been a constant battle with people engaging in voting and it’s a more common problem when it comes to young adults.
“I did not vote because I have lost faith in the election system. I am disappointed with both parties because the main problem has become the differences between Democrats and Republicans, they’re not feeding the necessities of the country and instead fight each other and criticize each other,” said Fernando Arias, a graduate student at the University of Miami.
He believes not voting is a statement that says not supporting corrupted candidates from neither party. More division and negative comments towards opposing candidates is not the best way to encourage people to vote, especially young voters.
Voting is a fundamental right in our society that allows our voices to be heard and considered in how the government makes decisions. In countries like Venezuela or Cuba, there is no such thing is as the right to vote and people’s voices and concerns are often ignored by the government. But is it a solution to not vote to show you don’t agree with the government?
In the United States, that right exists and, although people have this right respected, most people still struggle to get to the polls. Although it has been expected for young people to not vote, due to lack of interest or not having enough knowledge about who to vote for, theSouth Florida Community has made terrific efforts into inspiring young voters to vote, which by that it will inspire parents to also vote.
Pamela Ortiz, a young resident in South Florida, claims to never vote during elections. “I didn’t vote in the midterm elections because I don’t know much about the people that were trying to be elected,” said Ortiz. “I also feel like every year the ballot for Florida is always cheating and maybe that is why they always have to recount for Florida so I kind of don’t trust the system.”
When it comes to young adults, 18 through 24 years old, it is the age group that most seems to fluctuate in certain elections, so it is very unexpected when it will increase from time to time.Compared to older voters, 40 to 60 years old who vote remain around 50 percent or more, young adults have the lowest voting rate but keeps increasing little by little with time.
In 2012, 133 million people reported voting which is a massive increase of 1.8 million people since the election of 2008, according to the U.S. Census.
The University of Miami (UM) initiated “Get Out the Vote” (UMGOTV) in 2014 when UM student voting rates lowered significantly in the 2014 election. According to Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), in 2012 the UM’s voting rate was 50.1 percent and its registration rate was 83.2 percent. Because of this, UMGOTV was deeply motivated to change this and make sure students have the sources needed to be more involved in civic engagement.
Albany Muria is president of the organization and a public administration major.
She says she has always been passionate about politics. Muria was able to see how important it is to have female representation in all levels of government during a recent event held on campus about women in politics called “Shatter the Ceiling.”
She heard their stories and they inspired her to get involved with civic engagement in her community.
“People often say that they don’t know enough about candidates or issues in order to vote or have enough time.But we live in a lifetime where information is so accessible, with a single click we can find out about every candidate and issues on the ballot. About 38states allow early voting, so not having enough time should not be an excuse,” Muria stated.
Muria explained that the organization has made it a priority to encourage everyone eligible to vote. The organization has hosted events on campus, scheduling class visits or tabling to educate students, to inviting special guests to the university such as actor Christian Slater, who helped register students for the midterm elections of 2018.
In the midterm election of 2018, more than 3.3 million young voters voted through early ballot according to the atlantic.com. This makes it the highest increase in numbers in early voting.
To make it easier for students, the Butler Center, Student Government, and Parking and Transportation worked together for students to get free transportation to early voting locations.
To increase voter engagement even more around campus, the Butler Center started the Voter Ambassador program to educate students interested in getting others registered for those who have the opportunity to do so.
“I think a lot of people are under the impression their vote does not count or that they are wasting their time. If 1,000 people have that mindset, those are 1,000 votes that could have pushed a different candidate towards victory,” Muria said. “Some people simply don’t care or are just apathetic towards issues that don’t affect them and although it is hard, we are trying to change that mindset.”
Kevin Bustamante, a former member of UMGOTV, is a Political Science graduate student from UM and during his time at the university, got involved with UMGOTV. He joined the organization because he wanted to increase civic engagement in his community. He believes the organization has increased registration by constantly tabling and informing people, in a non-partisan manner on the importance of being civically engaged and participating in our politics.
“Young people are constantly inconsistent. They always fail to show up to the polls in the way older people do. Students are always caught up in one thing or another and they feel like their voice does not matter or that they shouldn’t participate because they have not made a knowledgeable voting choice,” Bustamante said. “The presence ofUMGOTV for those students to be motivated because they want to be part of the crowd: if they see their friends participate in the political process, they want to participate too.”
Bustamante said he believes helping to register students “clears one hurdle stopping them from voting.” Now a graduate student, Bustamante continues to make a difference by mentoring and teaching high school students at his alma mater, Miami Senior High School.
In the 2016 election cycle, UMGOTV was able to register about 2,500 students, faculty and staff and provided students with free transportation to the polls and did again in 2018. This is important because most people including young adults might feel lazy or not know where to vote.
According to census.gov, in the Presidential elections of 2016, 46 percent of young adults ages from 18 to 29 voted while 12% young adults who were registered did not. People of all ages, 7 to 12 percent registered do not vote as well. So, it can’t be blamed fully on young adults not caring.
UM is not the only college contributing to voting engagement. Florida International University, a public university, has recently become one of the 83 campuses in the country to be designated as a “Voter-Friendly Campus” in 2017.
According to FIU News, an initiative guided by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project (CVP) and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA). FIU has also conducted events on campus to educate and encourage students to vote, including a pledge to vote campaign and inviting Miami Football Club player Mike Lahoud along to speak with students.
Events like this are important because if young adults get motivated from a young age and learn the importance of voting, it is possible they will be involved as adults. And if this is possible, voting rates can only keep increasing.
Dr. Patricia A. Whitely, vice president of Student Affairs at UM, not only voted in the 2018 midterm elections but is also believes voting is certainly super important.
“Young people do not vote because they can be lazy, or it is not convenient,” said Whitely. “Young people have to be involved with civic engagement to have a voice in the future of our country and laws. At UM, we have used countless resources to gives students the opportunity to register to vote. I anticipate that interest and participation will be far and wide for the 2020 presidential election.”
The biggest concern with civic engagement is not knowing where to vote, and not knowing whether people’s vote matters. Organizations such as UMGOTV and FIU’s student government, both college based can help future generations change the voting rates.
Whether these sources are online, on campus, or through text messages everyone can be informed enough. “When We All Vote” is one organization that provide free information straight to your phone on what to do and where to go during elections as well as what is on the ballot. Our generation could make a change, and by not voting, we will not progress as a country.
It all starts with being more active and dedicating more time to what is going on in our country.