For most of my life, a lot of people I knew thought politics were too complicated to understand, too divisive or too uninteresting to involve themselves in. After November of 2016, however, all of that changed.
The 2016 general election caused people on both sides of the aisle to become politically engaged. This, however, was not the result of any one candidate or campaign. Rather, it was the tireless work of people all across the country who recognized that their voice wasn’t being heard and wanted to do something about it.
Most of them are millennial college students like you and me.
The Lanthorn Editorial Board recently published an article giving a myriad of reasons why students lack in voter engagement. They said they hoped GV’s national voter registration week would “register more voters and get students involved in civic engagement.” Guess what? It did.
On National Voter Registration Day, over 800,000 people registered to vote. To put this in perspective, only about 770,000 registered during the general election in 2016. On GV’s campus alone, 341 students registered to vote and 364 students filled out absentee ballot applications.
These outstanding numbers prove to me one thing: students are ready to engage in politics again.
Of course, I didn’t need these numbers to convince me of this. I knew it when my family, friends, and coworkers asked me meaningful, critical questions about political issues they’ve never expressed interest in. I knew it when the most apolitical people I knew started posting about politics, showing up to marches and rallies, and working on campaigns.
If anything, the results of National Voter Registration Day only backed up what I’ve seen happening all around me for the past two years.
Students should and do care about politics. As millennials, we have the chance in November to shift the tides in our favor. We make up 27 percent of eligible voters; that’s more than the baby boomer generation, who have consistently showed up in large numbers on election day.
The fact is, millennials know we have political power, and we are ready to wield it. I and my fellow Campus Democratic Engagement Coalition members, along with the Community Service Learning Center and Student Senate hear you, and are eager to join you in taking our power to the polls on November 6. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us in attending some events aimed at your interests and concerns surrounding politics and American life.
Democracy 101 panels will be held every Wednesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Mary Idema Pew Library Multipurpose Room throughout October to discuss vital, timely issues in politics. Additionally, starting this Friday afternoon, we invite you to join us on the Kirkhof East Lawn from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for Coffee and Conversations, where we will meet weekly to try to answer the question “What is Your American Dream?”
College students: we see you; we hear you; we are you. In an increasingly divisive era, we know you want to try to work through our nation’s problems and find sustainable solutions.
Together, we will make it happen.
Note: This post, written by Michigan CEEP Fellow Jane Johnston, was originally published by Grand Valley State University’s The Lanthorn on 10/9/18. The original can be found here and is being reposted with the permission of Jane Johnston.
CEEP Michigan Fellow Jane Johnston is a junior at Grand Valley State University, studying Multimedia Journalism and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her high school government class instilled both an appreciation and fascination with local and national politics, which has only deepened throughout her college career. One day, she hopes to use the skills she learns in both her academic studies and her personal exploration of politics to write about gender issues for a national publication.