Gen­er­a­tion Z’s su­per­power should be vot­ing in large num­bers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - EDITORIAL - By Garfield McIn­tyre Jr. Garfield McIn­tyre Jr. in­terned in the of­fice of DeKalb County’s CEO. He en­ters Hamp­ton Univer­sity in Vir­ginia this fall.

Gen­er­a­tion Z, those born be­tween 1996 and 2010, now hold a power so great, they can change the fu­ture if they chose to har­ness it.

I ex­pe­ri­enced this power last May, when Ge­or­gia held its pri­mary elec­tion. This was a spe­cial day for me, as it was also the day of my high school grad­u­a­tion, so I made sure to cast my bal­lot early in the morn­ing. When ar­riv­ing at the school be­fore be­ing trans­ported to the Ge­or­gia World Congress Cen­ter, I spoke to dozens of mem­bers of my South­west DeKalb High School grad­u­at­ing class, and asked who had gone to vote, or who had planned to go vote.

The re­sponses I heard trou­bled me. The ma­jor­ity of stu­dents were un­aware that an elec­tion was tak­ing place. A few peo­ple asked me how they could vote, only to be dis­ap­pointed when I ex­plained to them that the reg­is­tra­tion pe­riod had ended a month ear­lier. The irony of the sit­u­a­tion made it worse. Many of those stu­dents com­plain about the ac­tions of elected of­fi­cials, or ex­press con­cern for things that elected of­fi­cials di­rectly con­trol; yet when given the op­por­tu­nity to choose of­fi­cials, they ig­nore them.

Most stu­dents, dur­ing their se­nior year of high school, will reach the le­gal vot­ing age. Reg­is­ter­ing to vote is a sim­ple process. In Ge­or­gia, voter reg­is­tra­tion can be com­pleted on­line from any de­vice. If you have a driver’s li­cense, or a state-is­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, you can reg­is­ter to vote right now at www. mvp.sos.ga.gov and start mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to­day.

From Jan­uary to when the pri­mary reg­is­tra­tion pe­riod closed, I en­cour­aged peo­ple of le­gal age to reg­is­ter to vote. Dur­ing this time, I re­al­ized that many high school se­niors don’t un­der­stand the im­por­tance of vot­ing. They said things like, “It’s only one vote,” and, “It doesn’t af­fect me any­way.” What they fail to re­al­ize is that ev­ery ma­jor so­cial change in this coun­try was achieved through grass­roots move­ments.

We live in a na­tion pred­i­cated on the idea that one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence. If ev­ery teen voted in the first elec­tion af­ter their 18th birth­day, the turnout would be enough to change the out­come of elec­tions, and would help the in­ter­ests of young peo­ple be­come pri­or­i­ties for our elected of­fi­cials.

On Elec­tion Day, the win­ner is de­ter­mined by which can­di­date can best mo­bi­lize their sup­port bases, not the one with the most over­all sup­port. This is be­cause of our na­tion’s prob­lem with low voter turnouts. By in­creas­ing the Gen Z turnout, cur­rently the low­est among ac­tive vot­ers, elec­tions would likely be de­cided by the cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of Gen Z’s new vot­ers. This would in­crease po­lit­i­cal ef­fi­cacy among youth and adults, and also force cam­paigns to ap­peal to a younger au­di­ence. The re­sult would be elected of­fi­cials who are held ac­count­able to all con­stituents, young and old. This ac­count­abil­ity would af­fect pol­icy de­ci­sions, urg­ing politi­cians to con­sider their younger vot­ers.

This ac­tivism is vi­tal be­cause elected of­fi­cials shape how Gen Z will live for most of their adult lives. Sud­denly, the youth will have opin­ions on im­por­tant is­sues, and will be more moved to take ac­tions to fix them.

The youth of Gen Z can be a pow­er­ful coali­tion that will bring pos­i­tive change for the present, and set the stage for their own fu­ture.

It’s not too late to reg­is­ter for Novem­ber’s elec­tion. Through our ac­tions we may lay the foun­da­tion for a bet­ter world for our chil­dren.

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