Not every eligible Falcon voice was heard in the 2020 election

Many students at Groves had their first opportunity to cast a vote. But not everyone who had the opportunity did so.

Photo by Ben Roman

Voter enthusiasm in 2020 was extremely high across age brackets as evidenced by ballots. This is most often attributed to current events such as coronavirus and the protests to combat ongoing racism.

The students eligible to vote here at Groves are considered part of Generation Z. In 2020, for the first time, Gen Z will represent a tenth of eligible voters. This voting demographic displayed notable civic activism in the 2018 midterm elections. According to the U.S. census information, among 18-29 year-olds, voter turn-out jumped from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018.

Despite this civic activism, enthusiastic young voters have to face some significant obstacles. According to Generation Progress, young voters are outnumbered and ,historically, out- voted. Modern families are smaller than they used to be compared to families created by the Baby Boomer generation (now considered the age group between ages 55 – 73). This creates a unique situation with respect to voting. People in the 65+ age group are projected to make up 23% of the electorate in 2020, up from 18% in 2000. Conversely, eligible voters in the 18-24 age group are expected to fall from 13% to 12% in 2020. This is clearly something that young voters cannot control.

What young people can control is their own activism, and senior voter Storm Stephenson reflected on why voting is important to him

“Voting is a crucial part of our society and who is elected will directly affect our future. There are many other important questions on the ballot besides the primary elections that affect students like us directly as well," Stephenson said..

Many of his fellow classmates fail to find the same importance in voting as he does. As a result, turnout was a major issue for eligible Groves' voters. According to a recent Scriptor poll, approximately 36% of eligible student voters, out of 52, elected not to vote.

While 77% of people aged 65 or older voted in the 2016 election, less than 50% of 18-29 year olds cast a vote in 2016. Voter suppression is a major topic when discussing the pending 2020 presidential election. Since 2010, at least 25 states have increased restrictions on voting. One of these restrictions would seem to disproportionately target Gen Z voters and is mandated voter registration purging. This means that if a voter does not vote in two federal elections, they would have their registration purged. Given that young people, and those earning a lower income, are more likely to change addresses multiple times due to school, employment, and their tendency to rent rather than own a home, they may be disproportionately affected by the purge. Therefore, these individuals may think that they are registered to vote, but find their registration nullified come time to vote.

Data collected and graph created by Ben Roman.

To create this graph, I explored the Generation Progress website database and found the original data that they were pulling from. As of 2016, the millennial generation was still outnumbered (in terms of eligible voters) by the baby boomer generation. However, the millennial generation did surpass generation x in terms of total people eligible to vote. But, as the graph shows, the older generations have higher percentage turnouts

Having met many non-voters (not voting by choice) in his grade, senior voter Evan Willey provided insight into why some eligible high school students choose not to vote. According to a recent poll at Groves, approximately 36% of eligible student voters elected not to vote in this election for various reasons.

“I believe the electoral college is a flawed system that suppresses certain peoples’ votes which discourages some people. I think the large number of people who are voting also discourages students because they see themselves as 1 when millions of people are voting so they think it doesn’t matter,” Willey said.

Despite these mental roadblocks for some younger voters, voter enthusiasm in 2020 was extremely high across all age brackets, as evidenced by ballots that were cast two weeks before the official election day. According to CNN, more than 17 million people had already voted. At this time in 2016, Michigan had 369,721 ballots cast. In comparison, this year Michigan already had 1,150,224 ballots cast. In a recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS in September, 2019, nearly half of voters described themselves as enthusiastic regarding voting in the 2020 election, compared to only 31% in September, 2015 leading up to the 2016 election.

Photo by Ben Roman

More than 17 million people voted two weeks before election day. The amount of ballot drop boxes greatly increased for this election due to coronavirus, and many utilized these drop boxes to vote early. Ballot boxes help make sure as many people as possible have an opportunity to cast their vote. This one is at the Southfield Public Library.

While individuals may say this election is important for a variety of reasons, such as the environment, police reform, immigration, etc., there is another reason this election is noteworthy. According to Generation Progress, people of color made up a third of the electorate for the first time.

Interestingly, our student body mirrors this statistic as the total minority enrollment at Groves is 33%, and minorities were part of the eligible student voters who made sure their voice was heard this election.

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