2020 Demonstrated Youth Power, We Must Work To Make It Last
Policy makers must educate youth about their strength, for all our sakes.
Amidst the deluge of bad news on our screens and in our minds, it is easy to forget many of our recent victories and causes for optimism. One such triumph we must recognize is the large increase of youth voter turnout the United States experienced in the 2020 Presidential election. According to Tufts University, youth turned out at a rate between 52 and 53 percent, with youth of color playing a particularly decisive role in many states, including the unexpected upset in Georgia.
This demonstrates the power that youth have, especially through the numbers of our ballooning youth of color. Children of color were projected by the United States Census Bureau to be the majority of youth in 2020. They even went so far as to say that by roughly the year 2045 whites of all ages will become an outright minority in the United States.
There is an emerging sleeping giant here, ready to rise up and face the challenges of our era even more than they are bravely doing now. One such challenge continues to be the wickedness of racial disparities in youth arrests. Black children face a 5 times higher chance of incarceration than white youth. In the state of California, between 2001 and 2015 there was a 30% *increase* in the racial disparity of incarceration between Black and white youth. This occurs as there are growing calls among policy makers and community based organizations for massive change to this state of affairs.
But in order for policy makers to be held accountable for their promises to change the system, we must continue to vote and *increase* the vote. For long enough, older generations have voted at a rate far higher than their young counterparts. Given the continued disparities many of our young brothers and sisters continue to face, it is essential that youth become a mighty voting bloc in our own right. This can have a large positive effect on issues unique to youth, such as reallocating school police funds to counselors and social programs or overcoming the digital divide to access distance education faced by youth of color.
The state of California has admittedly done many things to make voter registration easier. One can easily register to vote online. One can also ask for convenient, no reason given, mail in ballots to prevent visiting a busy polling location. Yet youth must balance busy work schedules that retired Americans simply do not have to. This can create obstacles to voting through ignorance of the process. Thus, we must work to expand voter registration and voter knowledge in places of life as early as high school and college. If policy makers are genuine in their promises to increase voter turnout among all demographics, this must be undertaken as a huge priority, including after the election.
We see the major role youth and youth of color voters played in the 2020 elections and even the 2018 midterms. To harness that power, community based organizations and civic minded voters must decisively assist youth to lead their own struggles. With a united front to handle the challenges of the day, we have great cause for optimism to withstand the coming storms of our politics and make meaningful change amidst the turbulence.