Generations Y and Z Voice Their Opinions
What’s At Stake for Future Generations?
Youth Vote in the U.S.
According to Wikipedia, the youth vote in the United States is the cohort of 18–24 year-olds as a voting demographic. Many policy areas specifically affect the youth of the United States, such as education and the juvenile justice system. The general trend in voter turnout for American elections has been decreasing for all age groups, but young people’s participation has taken the biggest nosedive.
Young people have the lowest turnout. As people age, their voting activity increases to a peak at the age of 50 and then falls again.
Ever since 18 year olds were given the right to vote in 1972, youth have been underrepresented at the polls. In 1976, one of the first elections in which 18 year olds were able to vote, 18 to 24 year olds made up 18% of all eligible voters in America, but only 13% actually voted – an underrepresentation of one-third. In the next election in 1978, youth were underrepresented by 50%.
Wikipedia notes that “Seven out of 10 young people…did not vote in the 1996 Presidential election… 20% below the general turnout.” In 1998, out of the 13% of eligible youth voters in America, only 5% voted. During the competitive Presidential race of 2000, 36% of youth turned out to vote, and in 2004, the “banner year in the history of youth voting,” 47% of the American youth voted. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the number of youth voters tripled and even quadrupled in some states, compared to the 2004 elections. In 2008,
Barack Obama spoke about the contributions of young people to his election campaign outside of voter turnout.
On November 9, 2016, CIRCLE (the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) estimated that 23.7 million young voters participated in the 2016 Presidential election, a 50% voter turnout of citizens aged 18 to 29 in the United States. Young voters supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 55% to 37%. They estimated that 13 million youth voted for Secretary Clinton and almost nine million youth voted for Donald Trump. Among young people of color, Clinton won by even more decisive margins. An additional two million young people either voted for third-party candidates or chose not to vote for any of the Presidential candidates on the ballot.
Nationally, young voters aged 18 to 29 cast 19% of all votes in the 2016 presidential election, which is the same as the youth share of voters in 2012.
For this very special political issue of Denver Urban Spectrum, we reached out to several diverse, young community voices for their opinions on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. Here is what they want to share with their generation (and younger) about the importance of voting, why to vote, why this election might have a greater impact than past elections, why they are supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President and Vice President, and why others should support them as well.
CVO, Black Business Initiative
Voting is a form of exercising agency over ourselves and our communities, as well as participating in the process of governance. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count. Also, don’t ever let anyone convince you to give your vote freely without accountability. Accountability starts before the vote is cast. Your vote is powerful. It is leverage. It is valuable. And it is most effective when we are knowledgeable and strategic. Politics is a group sport. We have to play together to win.
I think this election can have a greater impact because the nation is extremely polarized. However, I also believe that no matter the outcome, our community has not positioned itself to gain strong economic footing. I believe unrest will continue and this disruption to the status quo may be what our people need to lull us from a place of complacency and keep us consistently pushing towards liberation.
Anthony E. Graves
GRAVES CIVIC SOLUTIONS, Principal
When I think about my generation and the next generation of young voters who are poised to lead our country, it makes me deeply optimistic. I have been inspired by the advocacy and activism of the millions of young people who have flooded the streets to decry racial injustice and reinvigorate a national dialogue about civil rights. They are leading a movement that will define this generation. The New York Times recently reported between 15 to 26 million people protested the death of George Floyd, potentially making it the largest social movement in American history.
Beneath this generation’s current social activism, there is also a strong sense of independence, nonconforming thought, and an interest in creating rules of their own that I find refreshing. Young people are also standing up for environmental stewardship, gender equity, school safety, economic empowerment, and other important issues that will improve our quality of life.
As I watch these historic actions by young leaders unfold across the country, I want them to know that they are powerful and that if they want to fully realize their vision for a brighter future – they must VOTE. To crystallize their influence and actualize policies that give their ideas life, they must register to vote and cast their ballots for the candidates and issues that model the values and actions they want in practice.
In this election cycle, I believe that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the leaders that can give voice to the values on display by the current generation. I encourage young leaders, and all generations, to join me in supporting Biden-Harris for President and Vice President of the United States.
Simone D. Ross
Founder & CEO
BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People Of Color) communities have been on the periphery for far too long. We’re elevating our voices unapologetically. Our voices are resonating with impassioned demand, and it seems that we’ve finally caught the attention of the world. We have to maintain the momentum, head to the polls in droves to further demand that our voices be heard, and then be relentless in taking the most important next step. This next phase is demanding that those we’ve elected are fulfilling their promises. It’s about creating bold callout culture, rejecting exploitation, and building consensus in our community about the issues our elected officials can lead versus the issues we can tackle in community pods.
This election is a make or combust situation. We’ve already reached the breaking point in this nation; another four years of Donald Trump and Trump’s Republican Party will be the demolition of America.
Albeit a norm we’ve grown far too accustomed to, racism is not normal, is not OK, and is not the American way. THIS election is about rejecting racism and supremacy, and standing in power.
Founder, McBride Impact
This is a hugely important election for our community! The younger generation must understand the importance of using their voices! YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT! This election will define what America will look like for the next generation of young Black and Brown people. We have the chance to hold America to her promise to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for ALL of her citizens.
During these polarizing and pivotal times in this country, we have the responsibility to use our voices for change. I’m supporting the Biden-Harris ticket because we cannot afford four more years of the divisive, racist words and actions of the current administration. The choice is simple: opportunity and inclusion versus oppression and division!
Howard University Freshman
This election is one of the most important ones thus far, not because our civic duties or responsibilities have changed, but because the essence of American values hangs in the balance. For the sake of humanity, those who’re truly educated know that no longer can you use party affiliation as a justification to why you choose one candidate over another. At the end of the day, the job of the U.S. President is to represent all American people, yet currently, we have a President in office who continuously pits the Democratic and Republican Party against one another.
This will be my first time voting in the Presidential election and I’m wholeheartedly voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I am begging you to vote for what’s right. At this point in time we have multiple examples as to what’s wrong. Vote as though you aren’t upper class, as though you aren’t Caucasian. Vote as though you aren’t a male, as though you aren’t heterosexual. Vote as though others’ lives depend on it, because they do.
To allow one’s privileges to overshadow the greater good of the American people is to continue to be blissfully ignorant in the face of repeated attestation. To vote is to make your voice heard, to provide a change, and to preserve the decency and pride of this country. Do not find yourself on the other side of right, in the face of adversity. As American people of our different shades and identities, in our beauty, we must rise to the occasion, if not for ourselves, then for the greater good of humanity.
Community Youth Organizer, Senate Employee
I encourage my peers more than ever to vote now because our future depends on it – a better today leads to a better tomorrow! So, with 78 million young people in America, we can shift the true meaning of democracy.
This election will have greater importance than ever to America’s future. The current Presidential administration has put the United States on the edge and increased social injustice in America. This election will show what side of history this administration will be on.
Anyone, from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden, would be more of a leader than Trump. Don’t get me wrong – you have one bucket of crap and another bucket but only half of crap. I would eat the bucket with half of crap over the bucket with full crap any day.
I am supporting Biden and Harris because I believe in democracy. I believe the power is with the people. As a young Black man, I had the blessing to experience the first Black President and hopefully will see the first Black female Vice President candidate of the United States, Kamala Harris, elected this year.
Struggle of Love Foundation
I feel as if presidency in a democratic society is non-essential. I would tell my peers and future generations that we should unite within our own communities, create a culture and environment- based education system and govern ourselves. As citizens of a society undergoing generational systematic inequity and racism, only we know what is best for us. Americans need to learn to depend on each other rather than a public figure to make changes.
The 2020 election is the most vital, yet deceptive election thus far. It seems as though this 20/20 vision is blinding. We have a lot to consider while voting, including manipulation. It is hard to say whether the votes will genuinely be impactful or just another government hoax.
I choose to support the people and partners of the community to do what is right. I don’t believe in the world of politics; it is a structured corporation that is designed to achieve one desired outcome. I seek knowledge from a higher power beyond this political realm and ultimately that is who will have the final say. Everything going on today, especially our election has significance and will all unfold a greater plan and purpose.
Dr. Ryan Ross
We live in America. Voting is our right and not a privilege. Only through exercising our right can we genuinely utilize our voice. Since 1876 we have been silenced, oppressed, suppressed at the polls, and denied fundamental human rights. We must turn out to change racist policies, practices, procedures, people, and documents that continue to serve as barriers to Blacks and African Americans thriving. It is a new day, as the traditionally left out, outnumbered, and marginalized are emerging as a minority.
Our collective participation will deliver overdue accountability, as well as the acknowledgment of America’s sins against people of color.
This election is indeed the most important vote of our lifetime because it is about more than policy and our country’s strategic plan. This election is about the very moral fabric and DNA of the country. It is about an attack on excellence, decency, division, and leadership. It is about gaining ground and not losing ground. It is about Black Lives Mattering, real conversations about race, justice, and equity. If we don’t show up, we run the risk of defaulting to the error of Jim Crow or worse.
I am voting for Biden/Harris; I invite you to join me. They believe in America and democracy, not merely power, privilege, and themselves.
It is time we exercise our right thoroughly. We are our superheroes, and voting is our power. Don’t meet me at the polls; beat me to them!
Quincy “Rev. Q” Shannon
Voting is such an important right and I know this to be true because I continue to see different ways that certain groups and people try to prevent others from exercising it. Voter suppression did not end with the Voting Rights Act, and sadly, several people continue to attempt to stop others from voting. Choosing to opt out of voting just insures those who do vote have a greater chance of getting the changes they want.
To simply say someone died for my right to vote downplays all of the effort put into continuing to ensure that our votes are counted when we go to the polls. Voting is not a past reality that we gleam the benefits from, but rather a constant fight that we must do our part to engage in and protect. Within a democracy, ideally, voting is the great equalizer that gives all voices the ability to make change.
I vote because I remember an election when I was in college in which everyone just assumed what we wanted was going to happen. Few of us voted because we all assumed everyone else’s vote would get what we wanted. We lost the election by two votes and could not blame anyone but ourselves for the fact others were able to push through something that seemed impossible. After that, I vowed to always exercise my right to insure without a doubt that I do my part to attempt to usher in the future I want.
Founder and CEO, The Daily Boss Up; Vice President and CFO, The Colorado Trust
The current Presidential administration is a symptom of a disease. The disease we need to cure in this country is inequity. This president did not create our illness, but he has capitalized on it and exposed it in a way no other has. He is unapologetically holding up the systems of racial, social, and economic injustice that helped him build wealth and power without a single skillset to do so. This vote is different in so many ways because we are not voting along party lines; we are voting along moral lines. We are not voting Republican or Democrat; we are voting for good vs. evil. We are not voting for a President. We are voting for the Supreme Court Justices that will either uphold the human rights our ancestors fought for or reverse them. We are deciding whether women will own the rights to their bodies. We are deciding if the LGBTQ community will be able to wed the ones they love and start families. All of us and all of you are deciding if my Black son who just started his freshmen year at one of the most difficult engineering schools in the country has to continue to fear that he will be criminalized, feared or even gunned down by the ones that are meant to serve and protect him. It is that simple to me and I am hoping every day that the good people of this country see it the same way.
Event Chair, 100 Men Who Cook
It’s almost cliché to say this is the most important election of our generation since every election has significance. However, I believe this election has a greater impact because overt and emboldened racism is on the ballot.
I’m a registered independent, fiscal conservative with liberal values. While there is disagreement on how to make this country a better place, this election is as much about humanity and decency, as it is about anything else. We are bombarded with lies from leadership. Our community is being ignored, all while Black and Brown people are being murdered by each other, police, and white America, when considered a threat. The aforementioned issues are not the fault of this Presidential administration, but it has not attempted to provide any solutions and I believe has thus worsened fears and emboldened racism and hatred.
I am supporting the Biden-Harris ticket because I believe they can lead us out of the pandemic with honesty; implement police reform; and be empathetic to issues faced in minority communities. The current administration has not been upfront and truthful with American citizens.
We all want change in this country but the only way to achieve this is by voting. Voting not only affects us today, but it affects our children, our children’s children, and so on. Don’t take the right to vote lightly!!!
In my opinion, this election has a greater impact than past elections because during this last Presidential term, our country has been negatively impacted by those currently in office. There has been a huge racial divide, worse than we’ve ever seen. Also, so many fatalities could have been prevented if better decisions were made regarding COVID-19. There has been so much corruption and hate in recent years, that it is time for leaders who are genuine, knowledgeable, and can lead with dignity and truth.
Our country has hit rock bottom and it’s only up from here. Biden and Harris have the potential to catapult us to higher levels.
Still Livin Ent, LLC, C&C Premier PR & Entertainment Firm
I want my generation and younger to know that voting, or the lack thereof, could directly affect them in the present time as well as the future. It impacts healthcare, education, our future kid’s education, and a multitude of other issues that will affect lives in the years to come. And I encourage you to use your voice by voting, which is your right and responsibility.
I believe the current state of the country and the economy clearly shows that change is needed. This is a make-or-break election.
I think the alternative option (of not voting for Biden and Harris) is not conducive to the social and economic well-being of the country in general, and people of color in particular. As far as telling people who to vote for, I just encourage them to do their research and vote from the heart.
Visual Communications, Awards & Talent Relations at Netflix
I implore everyone to examine the state of our world and make a decision to cast their vote this election and every election hereafter. I come from a long lineage of remarkable women, women who made it their mission to instill the importance of voting in their children and great-grandchildren. When I drop off my ballot this election, I know I am standing on their shoulders and the shoulders of the men and women who came before them and legally could not vote. I recognize the frustration with the current state of our world, but I refuse to believe my vote, coupled with my voice and action-oriented steps, are not a part of the change I desperately want to see in our country. We are up against unprecedented times and a man in the President’s office who simply is not concerned about our best interests. His daily vitriolic actions are not only disturbing but dangerous and deadly. Our votes matter this election in a way that should have everyone on their feet, ready to make their voices heard!
This election will absolutely have a greater impact than past elections because our future is at stake. A difference of opinion on policy is one thing, but we’ve far surpassed that. Racism has always been alive and well; however, this Presidential administration has emboldened people to blatantly spew hate. We have COVID-19, climate change, immigration, our economy, healthcare and the education and safety of our children and elderly to concern ourselves with. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye this election.
I recently read Senator Kamala Harris’ book, The Truth We Hold. She concludes the book by writing, “Years from now, our children and our grandchildren will look up and lock eyes with us. They will ask us where we were when the stakes were so high. They will ask us what it was like. I don’t want us to just tell them how we felt. I want us to tell them what we did.”
This election, exercising our right to vote is a means of protest against the unbearable last four years. I have a 5-year-old son with whom I’ve already had the dreadful “talk” so many parents of Black boys have found themselves compelled to have. A conversation I know I will continue having with my son as he gets older. Do I think police brutality and racism will change overnight? Well no, but I am certain the current administration’s ideology on Black lives will not support the vision I see for our children. Supporting law enforcement using excessive force and outright murder could not be further from that vision. And so I will vote, I will vote early, and I will continue making phone calls, sending emails, and volunteering my time to enact the change we not only want, but the change we deserve. We are the descendants of giants, giants that overcame insurmountable odds. Sitting at home and choosing not to vote would completely disregard the blood they shed to give us rights today.
DPS School Board Member
We need to get out and vote because our ancestors fought for us to do so, but more importantly we must vote for our future.
This election is the most important election of our lives, because change is on the ballot, good schools are on the ballot, police reform is on the ballot, and the environment is on the ballot. During this election, we must vote for the next generation after us.
I’m supporting Democrats this election because we are the party of progress. We must win back the Senate, keep the House, and win the White House to take back our courts. We also must vote from the bottom of the ballot up!
Author, Speaker, Activist
Dear younger generation, I used to think voting was totally useless. My first election was literally when Jeb Bush stole the election for his brother, George Bush, while Jeb was governor of Florida…and I lived in the capital of Florida. So of course, I thought my vote didn’t count. I thought the candidate was preselected and that our votes were just ceremonial. I was wrong. Even if it’s kind of rigged, enough votes can actually overturn the preselected candidate if you overwhelm the voting booths. If this wasn’t true, Trump wouldn’t have overcome the establishment GOP candidates like Jeb Bush, Mark Rubio, and Ted Cruz. He did it because he energized his base so much, the vote couldn’t be rigged.
This election is the most important in my life, and sadly, not for positive reasons – not like Obama. Obama’s election as the first Black president was an important achievement. Now, Trump literally is a threat to the stability of the country. Two hundred thousand dead people from COVID-19 are a testament to that. Being aided by the Russians is a testament to that. Encouraging white nationalist terrorism is a testament to that. Obstructing the mail, not testifying before congress, and tweeting from the toilet at 5 a.m. all threaten to pull the country into an irreversible institutional decline. This, and only this reason, is why I’m voting for Biden and Kamala. They’ll present a new set of problems, but not these ones. We can do better, and better’s going to have to cut it for now. Vote! It actually counts. .