Hegde: The importance of young voters

Student voters have a chance to make significant changes to the government. Registering them to vote is the first step toward starting the movement.


Lily Smith

Precinct captains organize before calling precincts to order during the Iowa Democratic Caucus at the IMU on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The IMU contains 6 different precincts for Iowa City. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Suchaeta Hegde, Opinion Columnist

From Malala to the Parkland teens, young adults crusade for the changes that they want to see in society — even more, they are pushing for the rest of us to join their movement.

Despite the encouragements of these inspiring icons and watching them make strides in the world, it can be easy to conclude that the actions of a regular young adult won’t make much of a difference. However, the case is quite the opposite.

The Pew Research Center recently released a report noting that in 2016, 7 million adults between the ages of 18 and 21 were qualified to vote. However, according to Child Trends Data Bank, since young adults became eligible to vote in 1971, voter turnout has been in decline. The report concluded that the decrease in turnout was due to young voters feeling that they were not well-versed in political matters.

Even in the case of University of Iowa Student Government, in which students are automatically registered to vote, turnout is incredibly low: in last year’s UISG election, only 5,706 voted of the more than 20,000 undergraduate students. While the facts are disheartening, many organizations are trying to ensure that young adults pay more attention to the upcoming general election.

One of the notable groups pushing the youth vote is NextGen Iowa, which is one of 11 chapters composing parent organization NextGen America, founded by Tom Steyer. NextGen Iowa aims to make progress through political movements; it is active on 32 campuses throughout the state.

A NextGen Iowa representative confirmed that the goal of the group this year is to “turn out young voters in Iowa at unprecedented numbers.” Haley Hager, NextGen’s state youth director, noted the significance of targeting young voters, saying, “Young people are the largest voting block in Iowa and in the nation.” This means that young adults share similar concerns that can be seen in significant trends in voting. NextGen Iowa believes that college students could have a voice in subjects that directly influence them, such as budgeting for public universities and privatizing Medicaid.

NextGen Iowa reports that it helped more than 1,500 people register to vote at the UI, and the organization is well on its way to reaching the goal of getting 8,000 young adults registered before the November election. The organization hopes that by having more conversations with young people, the likelihood of their voting will increase and “chang[e] the political landscape,” Hager said.

With the election looming in November, there is a race to get young people ready to vote. Registering to vote can be done online or the forms can be delivered by mail to fill out at home.

Not only is the registration form fairly easy to complete, but the action also has a lasting effect. By registering to vote, young Americans can ensure that their voices are heard by their nation’s leaders.