“Every vote counts” is a phrase we all have heard countless times. But do voters really believe that?
During the 2014 elections, Anthony Brown (Democrat) and Larry Hogan (Republican) competed in a fierce gubernatorial race. In a surprising turn of events, Larry Hogan won with 51 percent of the votes and became one of the only seven Republican Governors in Maryland. How did Maryland, a Democratic bulwark, have a Republican candidate elected?
One factor of this unexpected result was voter turnout. In this year’s election, less than half of Maryland’s 3.7 million registered voters went to the polls, a record low in recent times. Voter participation dipped mostly in the highly populated, predominantly-democratic counties. For example, in Montgomery County, the turnout amounted to only 38.92 percent.
It seems that many are losing their enthusiasm for voting. However, there is one group that has not lost this spark: youths.
In May 2013, Takoma Park became the first city in the nation to allow 16 and 17 year old to vote in city elections. It was expected that this change will encourage youths to make voting a habit and as a result, greatly increase the voter participation in the future elections. Although this year’s election was rather uneventful (the mayoral race was unopposed and there was only one city council seat open), many teens still voted to show their excitement about their new right. 42 percent of Takoma Park’s registered 16-17 year old population voted. On the other hand, only 11 percent of the registered population over 18 voted. The drastically greater youth turnout clearly shows youth’s eagerness to vote.
Takoma Park’s clear success in voter turnout has greatly influenced movements for lowering the voting age in Rockville, the county seat. In the 2013 Rockville City Council Elections, only 17 percent of registered voters participated in the city elections. Many believe lowering the voting age will greatly increase voter turnout.
The issue of lowering the voting age has been very controversial. Opponents of lowering the voting age say it would allow “uninformed” kids to vote. However, this is legally inaccurate. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that all voters should have at least a sixth grade education, a requirement almost all 16- and 17-year olds have accomplished. According to law, most middle school students and all high school students are sufficiently educated to vote.
If you can vote, use that right to your advantage. If all registered voters actually voted during this year’s state elections, the results probably would have been very different. Without adequate voter turnout, the elected candidate may not be truly representative of what the people want. Thus, the change you want to see in society will not necessarily happen. Democracy depends on us and key to that is exercising your right to vote.
Article by the MoCo Student staff writer Omisa Jinsi of Churchill High School
Artwork by the MoCo Student graphic artist Angel Wen of Blair High School