[Rosemary Nilles and Jan Hall are Board Members of the League of Women Voters of Citrus County (LWVCC) LWV is a nonpartisan political organization, encouraging informed and active participation in government, working to increase understanding of major policy issues, and advocating for legislative policies for the public good. We never endorse candidates or parties.]
.‘Getting out the youth vote” has been an ongoing challenge for Americans. Younger people, ages 18-30, are often described as a powerful voting group, yet their turnout in the polls has been historically low.
Despite the efforts made to engage younger people during their school years, too many still express a lack of interest or a sense that their vote doesn’t matter. Few candidates, whether local, state or congressional, appear to target younger voters. The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVFL), including LWV Citrus, continues our focus on educating and engaging citizens about their role in our democracy.
The good news is that since 2016, national data suggest that younger people are beginning to vote in larger numbers. In Florida, turnout for younger voters increased by 10 points, from 44 percent in 2016 to 54 percent in 2020. (Reference: https://tinyurl.com/2p9s5xsa.)
Yet turnout for local and state elections remains a concern. Data from the Citrus County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) indicates that of the 38,247 citizens who voted in the 2022 Primary, only 933 were between the ages of 18-30. That’s only 2.4 percent! Young Americans are needed to continue our democracy, but overall, they remain underrepresented in the electorate. Various factors impact their decisions to vote – or not.
How does one register to vote?
No matter what your age, you cannot vote if you have not registered. National data suggest that when younger people are registered to vote, about two thirds of them will actually vote.
There are several ways to register to vote in Florida. With proper identification, one can register online or print and mail in the online registration form. One can also register at the SOE office, driver’s license office, public assistance office, public libraries and county governmental offices. The Citrus County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) schedules frequent voter registration events throughout our communities. Our Supervisor does a fantastic job of visiting schools to teach our students about the process and value of voting, and helps to them to register onsite. LWV members also offer voter registration in the community.
Tuesday, Oct. 11, is the last day to register before the Nov. 8 General Election.
How can older people help?
How can older people help younger folks see the value of civic engagement? Many of us have children, grandchildren, neighbors, co-workers who fall into that 30 and younger range. We can help to raise their level of interest in voting without venturing into divisive discussion. What issues does the person care most about? Is a loved one dealing with addiction? Have they struggled with mental health? Will climate change affect their future? Do they earn enough to buy a home? Are they concerned about: free speech? Reproductive rights? LGBTQ rights? Gun rights? Gun violence? Affordable childcare? Crime in the community? Student debt? Protecting waterways? Topics like these could lead to productive, non-partisan conversations that include a reminder that our local, state, and congressional votes matter in the policies that are enacted.
One can also remind younger voters that choosing candidates or a political party is never a “perfect” fit. Instead, we choose the person or party which most closely aligns to our beliefs, interests or needs. Most candidates have social media sites that explain their positions.
Encouraging younger people to get involved in civic organizations, churches and community activities can also help to build their interest in civic affairs and voting. Lack of time can be an obstacle. While younger folks are understandably busy building their education, their careers, and their families, even a few hours a month can make a difference. Citrus is fortunate to have many excellent role models for civic engagement for younger people, including LWV Citrus.
How can we vote?
Florida offers citizens three ways to vote. One can request and complete a mail-in ballot, which must be received by the SOE office by 7 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 8. One can vote at any of five Early Voting Sites across Citrus County from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 28 to Nov. 5. One can vote on Election Day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their designated precinct. The SOE website (https://www.votecitrus.gov) provides every detail for successful registration and voting. The helpful staff at the SOE office can answer questions at 352-564-7120.
From the economy to education to energy to community safety, young people have a critical role to play in shaping important issues – in Citrus County and across the nation. Our school board members, county commissioners and other local officials, state representatives and senators, governor, and members of Congress make regular policy decisions that impact each of us.
The League of Women Voters of Citrus County (LWVCC) encourages every citizen, young and old, to learn about the issues and vote! We especially invite our younger people to get involved in our work to protect democracy.
LWVCC members are always available to register voters and give educational presentations on voter registration, voting, and current issues of concern. For information about our meetings, events, and Speakers Bureau, contact us at email@example.com, via our website https://www.lwvcitrus.org/ or via Facebook.