FOR some Americans, voting seems to be an acquired taste. It takes a few decades for many citizens to really get into exercising their right to choose our leaders.
Historically, the older you are, the more likely you are to vote. In 2012, 69.7 percent of registered U.S. voters 65 and older voted. In the 18–24 age group, 38 percent participated.
Of course, everything is relative. Across the board, the United States has mediocre voting turnouts. According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. ranks 26th out of 32 peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, behind such countries as South Korea, Mexico, Slovakia and Estonia.
Younger adults’ aversion to the ballot box does seem to be changing, though. The idea of voting before you get your AARP card appears to be catching on.
In 2016, the 18-29 age group was the only one that had a larger turnout than it had four years earlier. Participation by this group rose from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, a jump of 80 percent. And, according to CNN and CBS exit polls, those younger voters preferred Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 67 percent to 32 percent.
In Virginia at least, the trend seems to be continuing. According to data from the Virginia Public Access Project, about 111,000 new voters have registered so far this year in the Old Dominion, 67 percent more newbies than in 2015, the last time the entire General Assembly was up for reelection. It is logical to assume that the majority of those newly registered are under 30.
University of Mary Washington political scientist Stephen Farnsworth points out the Democratic leaning of younger voters. In addition, he says that “groups moving to Virginia tend to be less Republican than those already here.”
For the state GOP, which controls the Senate and the House of Delegates by slim margins, none of this bodes well, especially on the heels of the 2017 elections, when 15 Republicans in the state House lost their seats to Democrats, who haven’t controlled the statehouse and the governor’s mansion at the same time since 1993.
The biggest unknown, of course, is whether the “woke” voters of 2017 will resist the urge to roll over and go back to sleep. It is eye-opening to consider the impact younger voters will have if they show up in the same percentages as their parents and grandparents.