Election day fell on Nov. 6 this year, and only 27% of youth aged 18-29 showed up to mark the ballot. The younger generations of America continue to prove they don’t care much for politics, despite the fact that the changing of controversial laws enacted by the government now can affect the future lives of our generation the most.
I’ve always been confused, and partially frustrated, with peers my age that give little interest in the state of our world and the decisions made that will determine the outcomes of their lives. In my own experience, nobody is surprised by the statistics of youth having a smaller percentage of voter turnout every election because not enough people seem to want to prove this wrong once and for all. While 27% of youth voting in the 2020 election is a great improvement from previous years, and even more turning out in 2022 is groundbreaking, the number is still not enough to account for all of the older generations.
The common argument teens shout out is “I’m not old enough to vote,” or “This has nothing to do with me.” These are statements that show little validity in the grand scheme of things. A prime example of this is in the most recent election. The Illinois Amendment 1, which was on the ballot in the most recent election, would have negotiated workers’ rights and the ability to bargain for their own conditions. This can directly relate to teenage workers who are commonly treated the most unfairly among employers. We are sometimes given less than minimum wage, further worsened by the fact that Illinois only has the teenage minimum wage set at $15 per hour. In 2020, around 865,000 workers were paid below minimum wage on a national scale. The amendment did pass with 58.4% of people voting yes, but crucial rule changes like this can help benefit us most.
There are numerous ways we can get involved, despite the fact that we can’t vote. You don’t need to make entire presentations dedicated to explaining potential policy changes; there are simpler ways of contributing. Reposting voting information on social media or getting involved with local levels of government are some examples. Simply mentioning current candidates to adults in your life that can vote could convince them to make it to the polls next election.
People do not realize how accessible parts of our government are. Instead of internalizing a hatred for the lack of change our representatives enact, why not address them directly? Believe it or not, most of them can easily be contacted. Lauren Underwood, the 14th District Representative who would cover the majority of Oswego High School students, is always available for contact. Her office is ready to hear our voices through emails, and personal meetings, in some cases. While you may not be able to get in touch with some of the higher-up Illinois politicians, our representatives are here to help us. They are the ones dedicated to us on a personal scale, and their ability to be so easily reached by teenagers is severely underutilized by us.
OHS’s mock election, run by Rho Kappa Social Studies Honors Society, was held on Nov. 4 just days before the actual election, and was a great way to introduce students to the world of voting. Students were given the option to come down to the auditorium during their social studies classes, or other free periods, and practice through a well-simulated copy of an actual election sites. It was interesting to see the results afterward as well. But it did make me wonder how many of the students marking their choice actually knew the principles their candidate stood for.
If it’s as simple as reposting one of those cute templates that oversimplify confusing political stuff, your contribution still matters! All of these great opportunities for us to get involved, like seeing the local level of government and our school’s programs, are only beneficial if we put them to use. So, go out and perform your civic duty, even if you aren’t of the official age to vote. And to those eligible by the next election, take a moment to reflect on how your vote matters in comparison to those not old enough to.
Hello! I'm Abby Geers and this is my first year as a 42fifty reporter and I am a sophomore at OHS. I enjoy reading, my plants, spending time with my cats, and hanging out with friends. I'm really excited to write this year!