Lack of young voters a disturbing reality

Erin Bottino, Staff Editor

Voting. It’s a part of life that, while sometimes annoying, is a necessary evil. The democratic process is taught to Americans at an early age, and it has been used to decide everything from what to eat for dinner to who the United States’ next President will be.

But for those decisions to be made, people actually have to show up to the polling places. And in this month’s election, that just didn’t happen.

November’s voter turnout clocked in at just 36.4 percent, the lowest rate ever since 1942. To put that into perspective, the last time so few people voted was during World War II, and that was because most of the eligible population was, you know, fighting in World War II.

Even worse, the group that was least represented at the polls: young adults. Only thirteen percent of voters below thirty cast their ballots, while those over 45 represented a whopping 65 percent of votes.

To be fair, this year was a midterm election, and these kinds of elections have historically had fewer participants than presidential elections. However, the midterms hold more importance than most young people think. For the first time since 2006, Republicans now have the majority in the House and the Senate, giving them the lead throughout Congress. This may lead to even more head-butting between President Barack Obama and the Republican Party, and ultimately could slow down the effectiveness of Congress to the point of a second government shutdown.

Nationwide, the GOP also made some big wins at the state level. This means that some less liberal laws concerning minorities’ and women’s rights may be more seriously considered. In Illinois, the Democrats won ten of the eighteen House seats, allowing Dick Durbin to keep his Senate seat.

The Republicans did clinch the title of Governor, though, replacing Pat Quinn with Bruce Rauner, whose name you have probably heard about 700 times in the last few months thanks to the $65 million his campaign spent on advertising and commercials.

Highlighting this election’s importance are the very important soon-to-be laws passed this month.

There were some very important soon-to-be-laws passed this month, and they only serve to highlight the importance of showing up at the midterm elections. The one that’ll most appeal to students: a raise in the state minimum wage to $10 starting next year, approved by two-thirds of voters. And for women, the same percentage agreed to new legislation that requires birth control to be covered in in-state health insurance plans.

Crime victims will benefit from this year’s midterms as well, since a constitutional amendment was passed that allows them to receive information about the status of the criminal’s court case.

So in the end, Illinois fared pretty well this year. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to not vote. If you are over eighteen and are a U.S. citizen, it is your civic duty to vote – no ifs, ands, or buts. It only takes a few minutes and all you have to do is show up at your polling place, take your pick of politicians, and leave. You even get that cool sticker to show off to all of your friends.

Most importantly, the issues young Americans are voting on now will be following us for the rest of our lives. Do you really want a bunch of seniors deciding the country’s financial and political future? Because while it might not matter now, it sure will thirty years from now when we’re the ones stuck in a failing system. And those who don’t vote now will have no right to complain later if they can’t even care enough to take ten minutes out of their day to decide who will govern the nation in which they live.