Why more young people don’t vote.

Republicans, whose star seems to be on the wane, have been trying to suppress the vote of all but the narrow sector to whom their message still appeals.  Democrats, on the other hand, project a message of inclusion which should bring far more people into the process. Why is it not more successful?

Bernie Sanders’ support demographic is a particular challenge, being heavily weighted with new voters.

It annoys me when media types refer to young people as being ‘unreliable’ when it comes to voting. The implication is that they are a monolith with one defining characteristic: they are undependable.  That is so unfair.

In fact, younger voters tend to be far more mobile than their established elders…not because of any particular lack of reliability, but out of sheer necessity. They must move much more frequently simply to be in the vicinity of their schools and employment opportunities.

If they have already left school and have a job, they are probably renters. In the tight rental market young people on skimpy budgets often must move from one municipality to another nearby in order to pursue more affordable housing opportunities. Theirs is a constantly shifting environment of economic instability, something that the current voter registration practices do not recognize.

As teenagers, these good citizens registered to vote as soon as they were of legal age, and then life took over and set them on a dead run.  A couple of years go by, an important national primary or election looms; and thinking of themselves as already registered, a lot of busy young voters completely forget that, having moved once or twice in the interim, they are no longer qualified to vote without re-registering.

They show up at the polls on election day and are turned away, after which some simply abandon the democratic habit.

As of this writing, same day registration is available in only eight states. Vermont will soon join that number, but only in 2017.


This is another stupid flaw in the system that no doubt disenfranchises huge numbers of individuals who would otherwise be gladly participating in the process.

Why should national elections be subject to restrictive voting rules imposed by the individual states? Shouldn’t there be a national voter registry, accessible anywhere in the nation?

Like efforts by the Republicans to disenfranchise minority groups whom they view as unfriendly monoliths rather than individual constituents, the voter registration practices that make it difficult for students and people with no fixed address to participate in the process strongly favor the continuance of establishment politics over those of innovation and progressive

This does not serve the best interests of our democracy, nor does it bode well for our international competitiveness in the future..

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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