Voting Is for Winners

Leo Tobbe at the polls
Leo Tobbe at the polls

Leo visits a polling place in Kentucky.

According to Tuft University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 48 million Americans under the age of 30 were eligible to vote in 2016. But only 24 million showed up. 

“There are a lot of people who are disappointed with our political system at every level,” says Attica Scott, a Democratic lawmaker in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Many young voters, Scott adds, don’t think that the Electoral College, which apportions votes by state, represents them fairly. In 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, even though Trump lost the popular vote.

“‘We won the popular vote,’” Scott recalls voters telling her. “‘Why didn’t our vote matter?’”



Representative Jason Nemes, a Republican in the Kentucky House of Representatives, also hears criticism about the system from his young constituents. “They’re disgusted with the process,” he says, “and think that politicians don’t care about what they have to say, that their opinion doesn’t matter.”

Nemes and Scott are trying to convince more young voters that their voices actually do matter. Both lawmakers are encouraging young people in their districts to go to the polls. Nemes and Scott are also speaking at schools, hosting voter registration drives, and organizing rides to the polls on Election Day.

“It’s important for me as a candidate for office, and as an elected official, to show up and engage with young people about the importance and power of voting,” Scott says.


Leo Tobbe at the polls

Leo with Attica Scott, a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives


Besides a lack of enthusiasm, there are other obstacles to increasing voter turnout. In Kentucky, for example, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., only on Election Day. Many students who have classes, work, and other responsibilities don’t have time to vote.

To address the problem, Nemes and Scott favor expanding voter hours. Scott also supports same-day registration, a practice already in place in 17 states and the District of Columbia. 

The representatives also urge kids who are too young to vote to be a part of the process. Young people can invite elected officials to speak at their school, join youth organizations, and participate in internship programs with local officials.

Turnout among young voters will play a key role in this year’s midterm elections. A lot is at stake. Will Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate? Or will Democrats win enough seats to block President Trump’s agenda?

Voters will find out on November 6, Election Day.

Photos courtesy of the author