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Discussion Question, Ruosi Wang

Creating a Voting Culture

Why so many eligible young adults, ages 18-29, in New York City choose not to vote is a debatable. Regardless, voters and non-voters both influence the outcome of elections. In 2010, New York ranked lowest in the nation in voter turnout. NYC’s voter turnout is similarly low and NYC’s young adults are consistently the most underrepresented group. Costly clashes bring certain concerns to the forefront—remember Occupy Wall Street?—however, let’s evenly spread this activism in the long term and efficiently capitalize on the popular collective’s political power by making voting part of the solution. Besides the excitement of political movements, is there a way to politically engage NYC’s young adults?

City life is demanding and people are operating on tight time budgets. To make voting easily accessible through no-excuse absentee voting for New York City residents and allowing election-day registration would be a good start to improving voter turnout. Moreover, educational institutions can do more to facilitate political engagement through integrating student life with elections. The ideological differences between candidates are of the least concern to most college students and young adults. Other than high profile elections like the 2008 presidential election, elections have become irrelevant and distant to the many college campuses. Integrating political science into core curricula and promoting political awareness is a simple idea, but rarely implemented to its potential.

The New York City mayoral elections will be taking place on November 5th. To draw attention from the young, the election is competing with hip coffee shops, shows, and a million other things people could do in the city. It’s not going to offer an exhilarating experience, but the implications of a collection of voters resembling NYC’s demographics are significant. Candidates who finally reach out to NYC’s college campuses and young adults may find that a constituent population that has been greatly under capitalized.

The struggle to bring young voters out on election days certainly lacks a quick solution. Candidates are regularly elected to office positions and a movement to increase voter turnout for one election will not do much in the long term. The solution is a habit and a culture that involves people identifying themselves as voters, investing energy and time in the democratic system of government, and realizing that all of this works to drive our country in the right direction.

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