Most Millennials are not voting, but they should!

Over the last few weeks, I have likely annoyed the pants off of most of my Facebook friends with constant updates about voting in the upcoming primaries. Those posts have received little to no attention or comment, not that that was a surprise.

So, in my last post, I tried something different. I capitalized the phrase “legalize weed” and sent the post out into the world. And what do you know, 13 likes and two people who commented, one of whom started an actual conversation. It was comforting to know that not only had I found something people cared about, but also that not everyone had blocked me yet.

But still, thirteen people is not a lot. No one seems to care about this election and that is usually expected for a midterm, local election. But why is that?

My hunch is that it is because people…

a) do not think the issues really matter, or

b) do not know anything about the election.

Presidential elections always get the highest voter turnout, in part because more people are paying attention.

The major media outlets spend far more time covering the presidential elections when they happen. If people watch the news, they are paying some attention to the election whether they mean to or not. But even if they don’t, the money in presidential campaigns fills television and radio, and even the internet more and more, with paid campaign ads.

A recent Harvard study revealed that only 23 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 said they would definitely vote in this year’s midterm elections.

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That is a decrease from the 34 percent who said they planned to vote just last November. But even the November numbers are pathetic, If only 23 percent of younger adults vote, they will have a much smaller impact than they could, and their concerns and interests will not be as well represented.

Put simply, too many people do not know or care much about local politics.

But they should.

Among the most frequently heard excuses for people not voting are “My opinion won’t matter” and “None of the candidates represent my views.” Neither of these excuses are really true, but they are especially off base when it comes to local politics. Local politics — local government — is all about where you live, your hometown, your district, your county.

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If there was ever a time and place where politics would directly affect you, this is it.

The people we elect to local office are responsible for shaping our communities in many ways. They plan land use, set tax rates, build roads and schools and park, and manage a long list of public services that you use (and pay for).

And as far as lacking a choice of candidates goes, all the people running are local, and they represent a wide range of views about key issues, or almost every issue. They are part of our community. You may know some of them personally. You can call or email or meet with local candidates and office holders. Even if you only take a little time, you can learn a lot about the candidates appealing for your vote.

Then go vote.

But, again, so many just aren’t paying attention enough, or at all.

On June 2, I attended a gubernatorial debate viewing that was supposed to foster a discussion. After the debate, the DC Media Group was going to interview watchers and ask for their opinions. But the interviews did not happen because only five people showed up, including three who helped organize the event. It may have been a lack of advertising, but the YouTube livestream currently has 857 views.

I don’t know how many people watched the debate across the State of Maryland, but I’m pretty sure the numbers were darn pathetic.

When people don’t paying attention, and don’t vote, they lose the chance to affect what happens in their own hometowns. By not participating, they also hand the influence of and control over their communities to a smaller, perhaps more extreme, set of interest groups that will always participate, but does not necessarily represent your interests or the public interest. Of course, they are perfectly happy if you don’t pay attention or vote.

Consider that much of what people say they don’t like about the state of politics is sure to get worse when people don’t pay attention or participate.

So think about some of the things that matters to you. Do you support adequate funding for public education? Are you concerned about the environment? Do you have an opinion about decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana? What about reducing the cost of higher education and the interest rate of student loans? What about anything else?. The odds are that some candidates will have opinions similar to yours, and you can make your voice heard.

Your opinions do matter, and the decisions local elected officials and state representatives make directly affect your life and where you live. They affect your families. They affect your homes. Get informed, and vote. Exercise your right!

If you don’t, please don’t complain when things don’t go the way you wanted them to.