Opinion: Millennials must exercise their political power

Posted on Nov 7 2017 - 8:00am by Daniel Payne

Millennials have power.

Even though they receive constant criticism from older individuals, they aren’t often recognized as the political powerhouse they have become.

Politicians largely ignore the youngest groups of voters; they often talk about issues that aren’t important to the average millennial, or they ignore the issues that are of concern for the future. Similarly, voting systems often disadvantage young voters that move away from their home precinct for college.

This only adds to the feeling of disenfranchisement among young people in our political system, as seen in the lowest turnout among any generation, 46 percent.

That means less than half of all millennials turns out to vote, even in presidential elections.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

While actual voter turnout is low among millennials, we have become the most powerful generation of living voters.

This fact has huge implications, if we, as a generation, choose to act. Millennials who didn’t vote had tremendous power in the presidential election, perhaps enough to change the outcome. Instead of significantly impacting the future of our nation, many chose to give up their power by staying home.

It’s no wonder politicians largely ignore a generation that largely ignores the electoral system.

We shouldn’t just be voting for the attention of our governmental system, though. The decisions of our elected officials affect us and those around us. Our tuition rates, for example, are greatly influenced by the amount of money the state and federal governments decide to put toward education. UM tuition is steadily increasing as Mississippi’s financial support for the university is steadily decreasing.

Ignoring voting opportunities deeply impacts others, too, even those who can’t yet vote. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides medical coverage for 30 million children in need. It lost funding under the current Congress.

The people depending on this program aren’t old enough to vote, much less understand the issues surrounding the elections to decide what happens to them. It’s up to us to protect these children in any way we can, including holding our congressional leaders accountable.

The solution is simple: vote.

Before you can vote, though, you need to register to vote. For Mississippi voters, Y’all Vote is a helpful website with information on how to register, upcoming elections and voter rights. You can find information on how to register in other states with a simple online search.

Once you’re registered, you should keep up with elections in your area. Local elections, though often ignored, can be more important than more publicized elections.

By simply getting out to vote, millennials could change the way politics work in our country, from local communities to the White House. The power is now in our hands. What will we do with it?

Daniel Payne is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.