American elections have long been overlooked by young voters, but local elections have always had low youth turnout. It’s time to change that.
On April 4, Colorado Springs’ local election will have voters choose from a cast of mayoral candidates, city council candidates and one ballot initiative. On March 10, ballots were sent out to all registered and active voters. March 28 will be the last day to send your ballots back and you have one last chance to vote in-person on April 4, by 7 p.m.
Colorado Springs’ local election will present voters with a selection of 12 mayoral candidates, ranging from seasoned local government veterans to small business owners and political outsiders. The ballot will also include eleven at-large candidates for Colorado Springs’ City Council and an initiative to extend the trails and open spaces maintenance tax.
Perhaps this is the first time you’ve seen these candidates and ballot initiative, or maybe you didn’t know that we had a local election coming up. This is what’s troubling about the turnout for young people voting. Local politics are the forefront of the community, with candidates and ballot initiatives personally affecting citizens.
Who do you think manages the infrastructure budget? Zoning? Police/public safety? Housing? Transportation? Medical assistance? Public works? You got it, local government. Local government is the most important and most ignored facet of our political system in the United States.
According to a study published by the National Civic League, only 15-27% of eligible voters cast their ballot in local elections across the U.S. Citizens who are 65 and older are seven times more likely to vote in local elections than those aged 18-34.
Thus, candidates are more likely to target their campaign advertising to older voters. Your vote has always mattered, but you’ve made it matter less by not voting.
Youth election turnout is also low for midterms and presidential elections, with the presidential elections seeing the largest turnout. In 2022, Colorado’s primaries saw a steep drop in youth voter turnout, as compared to 2018, with the older generation voting at a higher rate.
What happened? It seemed the youth vote was finally rearing its ugly head, but it sacrificed its engagement in 2022. It can’t be because of national issues like abortion, because young people tend to engage with those issues. At the same time, even after the Roe V. Wade reversal in the summer of 2022, you still didn’t vote.
If these large national issues can’t get young people fired up to vote, they certainly won’t vote in a local election which will determine the future of our local infrastructure, housing and economy. I cannot stress this enough: if you think your vote doesn’t matter, it’s because you haven’t bothered to make it matter.
We can fix this, but there is only one way. Vote, damn it.
When large voting blocs, like the 18-25 age range start showing their honest engagement in local politics by voting out or in candidates over a number of elections, the government and its officials will start engaging with you. They will start to ask what you want, what’s important to you and how they can do better, because now you’re determining the outcome of the election, not just your grandma who only wants to feel safe in her neighborhood.
I’ll give one final example of how much politicians feel the youth vote is irrelevant. A group of bi-partisan U.S. Senators have introduced a bill that will effectively give the president the power to ban social networks that originate in adversarial countries, including TikTok. The population engaging on TikTok is overwhelmingly young and they can get away with banning it because you won’t do anything about it.
I will bet my bottom dollar the app will disappear from screens within the year, so it’s up to young people to voice their concerns. It all starts with voting and voting in ALL elections.
Ballot Drop Box located outside of the University Center. Photo by Meghan Germain.