Our most recent web poll asked a very simple question: “Were you an informed voter at age 20?”
About two-thirds of the readers who participated responded ‘no.’
We bring this up with the knowledge that only about one-third of you voted in the 2011 civic election and people have pointed to the lack of young people voting as a contributing factor.
It’s very easy to wag a finger at young people about it being their responsibility to vote. It’s harder to delve into the reasons why, and more difficult still to initiate change.
Talking to young people who don’t vote, two responses are heard repeatedly: “I don’t know enough about the issues” and “my vote doesn’t matter.”
The answers are obvious: “then learn” and “if you want a better community, it’s the only thing that does.”
But while the statements are hard to argue with, they aren’t going to resonate with young people until their life experience drives home those lessons.
Voting is about acting as an independent member of your community. You have to remember most 18- to 20-year-olds are neophytes in that role, many are still shaking off the confines they grew up in. The significance of the greater community outside of their friends and family is something that is only beginning to be realized.
Learning the importance of voting is something that only comes with time and experience.
Schools and families can speed the process by introducing the concept of politics to kids at an earlier age — talk about the issues more and show real-life examples of change.
And they should. But don’t expect educated, engaged voters to happen overnight. They never have before.