On any given day, about 12,000 people turn 18. Besides partying and enjoying the newly-minted "adulthood," this birthday also has another big meaning: Registering to vote.
Today is Democracy Day, which acknowledges the 44th year since the 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the ability to vote. Before that you had to be 21 in some places, and young people protested that it wasn’t fair that they could be drafted to war and die --- but not have a say in country policies. And you know what? Those young people changed the law. Now Rock the Vote is asking all young people to register to vote today so we can continue to speak up about the issues they believe in. And RTV thankfully makes it super easy to register.
Well, you might be asking, why bother to vote? It might sound cliche, but your vote is your voice, and it really can change things.
“The Millennial generation is the largest, most diverse, most well-educated, most connected generation in our country's history -- and we want all young people to know the power we have when we vote,” explained Ashley Spillane, President of Rock the Vote. “By sheer numbers alone, we can determine the outcome of elections. Elections put people in office who will decide the future of our country -- we need to show up and have a say in what that future is.”
And all sorts of things get decided by voting. Environmentalism and fighting climate change? Check. A woman’s right to choose? Check. Marriage laws? Check. Marijuana policies? Check.
If any of these things and more matter to you, voting should matter too.
Sometimes we also don’t realize how lucky we are that we can vote. Back when America began, only certain white men could vote. It wasn’t until 1920 that all women in America were able to vote, and it took until the 1960s before the Voting Rights Act ensured black Americans the right to vote as well.
That said, there are still policies in place that make it hard to vote. Certain groups, like racial minorities and transgender people, to name a few, have a much harder time casting their vote, even if they’re registered. But the more you vote, the more it enables you to say everyone else should be able to vote too.
“To make sure young people understand the power their vote can have when they turn 18, Rock the Vote created ‘Democracy Class’ - a free lesson plan teachers can use in the classroom that includes a cool video about the history of voting with John Legend, Perez Hilton, Darren Criss,” Spillane continued, recommending people check out democracyday.com and see about getting Democracy Day in their school.
“When you turn 18, there are so many issues you now get to have a say in by voting -- the economy, the environment, marriage equality, criminal justice, immigration to name a few,” she said. “You have to vote to have your voice heard on these issues and create the future you want to see in your community, state, and our country.”