Young Voters Are Hurt by Outdated Registration Techniques, Not a Mystical "Enthusiasm Gap"


I remember voting in a provincial election at 19 after just moving to that province for University. I was eligible because it was my province of residence, but unable to get to the polling place because: A) I had no idea where it was since I was so new and didn't receive any voting information, B) it was inaccessible by bus and I had no car.

If one of the parties hadn't provided busing to students, I likely wouldn't have been able to/made the effort to vote.

Strangely, it was our conservative party that provided the bus, yet it was the NDP that had the most favourable platform for students (tuition freeze, plans for more student aid, etc.).

The NDP won our riding.
If you find it hard to register to vote, maybe you're not smart enough to have a say in the elections.

It just takes a few minutes over the internet. Too bad none of the kids these days use that.
This is a bunch of malarkey. It's enormously easier to register and vote now than it was 40 years ago when I first did it, and yet somehow I managed. Quit yer whining and just get off your lazy, privileged asses and do it.
This post deserves its own stirring theme music."Young people are not unicorns. We are not fantastical creatures who exist in myth and legend alone", writes spokesyouth Toby Crittenden, 30.
Yeah, right! This post is by "Toby Crittenden". Like I'm going to fall for that again. Nice post, "Toby"!
My personal observation as a young person does not support this post. I can't say that I see an enthusiasm "gap" (meaning a difference between the enthusiasm of youngs when compared to the enthusiasm of olds) but I definitely see a lack of enthusiasm.

I'm trying to do my part to get my cohort out and voting and I'm getting nothing but apathy. This from a group of 21-26 yr-olds, some of whom are gay, all of whom have gay friends, many of whom feel unfairly punished by police over use of marijuana, and most of whom regularly use marijuana and would greatly benefit from its decriminalization.

Despite these issues that will affect them directly, all I get is apathy and "eh, I hate politics"

(keep in mind this is just my personal observation of a group of roughly 30 people. a.k.a. not science)
How hard is it to register to vote? Assuming most have internet access at home or library:…

They will mail the fucking ballot to you. All you have to do is fill it out and mail back. Apparently that is an insane boundary for too many. Fuck em.

can someone find Toby's binky?

the crying is getting on everyone's nerves.....
As a 47-year-old youth, I am outraged that old people expect me to search the goddam internet to find the link to click to register or update my voter record.

The system needs to not just provide all these links, but also click the links FOR ME. People so super young as me just don't click our own links any more, you know. We're too busy!

Why should the burden fall on me of remembering to update my registration whenever I move to a new, more youthful apartment? The older-than-47s, jealous of all the youthful stamina-laden sex I can have in all my new apartments, have surveillance drones and chip-implanting robots. They need to use them on us youngsters to update our locations automatically. Just pretend we're faux-anarchists and you're the grand jury. Keep tabs on us!!

Damn all you over-47s for running things so I LITERALLY cannot vote.
Look, I think WA Bus et al did a hell of job with that registration drive--I must have been asked if I was registered two dozen times in the last month (and I'm flattered if that means you think I'm still a young voter since this is my 5th presidential election)--but seriously, registering to vote is incredibly easy. You don't even have to get off the couch.

It's not access, is what I'm saying. But kudos to you guys for doing your part to counter apathy.
The challenge isn't the difficulty of registering, as many people in the comments have said, it's pretty easy. It's the lack of engagement with young voters. People who have only recently been able to vote are not used to voting, they don't have the years of experience, filling out their ballot and sending it in. It's something they simply forget about or don't think of as something they need to do. We need to build a culture of voting as something that people get used to doing. That's where the gap is, since there are few places where young people are encouraged to vote or even register. Sure the campaigns do their part, and the DoL now offers you the option of registering to vote, but there's little outside of that. It's all to easy these days for people to just pass it by and there's no one there to stop them and say "Hey, don't forget to register/vote!"
While I don't entirely agree with Toby that there is no enthusiasm gap, you people seem to be missing his point. He's not claiming that it's too difficult to register to vote. He's claiming that there is a gap between the infrastructure in place to reach young vs. older voters and get them involved. The title of this post should probably be changed.

In other words, what @12 said.

Why is there not an app for that?

Also, since you have to give ID, SSN, place of birth, current residence, etc on your FINRA how come you can't just default Check a box on that to say Register Me To Vote A. Where My Parents Live B. Where I Reside on the fracking application?

It's like the dark ages in the US.
@8 have you ever tried to type that into a twitter feed? I have it and it keeps "correcting" it.

Seriously, real web sites have short URLs. Like oh i don't know .... .... gee how hard is it to use the root server and server-side redirect to the fricking four level subdomain? Do you think I code ROOT/DIR/SHORT/FORM as (LINK) with a short name or do I code all 256 letters of the actual direction as the long typed name?

Hire somebody.
@13, thanks - I confess my giggling kept me from taking it at face value. It seems like the premise is "there's no enthusiasm gap and only infrastructure to generate enthusiasm can fix the enthusiasm gap".
This is why we need Kathleen Drew for Secretary of State - she actually WANTS younger people voting and caring about politics. Koch-brothers and Kemper Freeman-back Republican Kim Wyman thinks it's way too partisan and risky to do anything that might encourage people to vote. I guess if you're not blue-haired and voting for red elephants, you're just an illegitimate. Never mind if you're an actual American citizen - you should still be denied voter registration and voter pamphlet. To teabagger Republicans like Sam Reed and Kim Wyman - the biggest threat to America is minorities, women, and young people voting. Wake the fuck up!
Oh my, the poor snowflakes don't vote because it's too hard to fill out a registration form?
"...political participation among our peers is not a question of apathy, it’s a question of access. Like every other type of human being, when you engage us, we respond."

Or, you figure out that you want to vote (and that does not require "years of voting" to do), you find out how to register to vote, and then you register. And then you vote.

That said, outreach also rocks.
@2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, et al. - I'm a former student. I just graduated from Seattle U. I worked full time for four years, attended class full time, and moved here from California. Between class, studies, internships, work, and living in a new city without a car or the typical family support structure, registering to vote comes LAST IN LINE when it came to my priorities for the last four years.

I'm not alone. Yes, registering to vote can be easy. Its easier than most young people imagine. But for young people working a couple jobs, living off of tips, attending classes or paying off student loans, VOTING doesn't address any of our priorities. Of course I'm concerned about POLITICAL FOOTBALL X, and I certainly want to see CANDIDATE Y elected. But it takes me an hour to get home from work on the bus, and if I'm going to catch it and still have time to stop by the bank/library/grocery store/laundromat, make dinner and get started on homework/job applications/job #2, then registering to vote is going to have to wait.


Because political discourse leaves me out. My rudimentary understanding of federal, state, and local policy only asks for my input twice every four years. Sure! Pell grants, levy equalization, higher education budgets, and unemployment insurance are all matters that affect my life directly. But Toby is absolutely correct. Student unions and groups like WA BUS pale in comparison to the extensive constituent outreach conducted by churches, labor unions, LGBTQ advocacy groups, enviros, business lobbies, and senior orgs.

It's not that we don't care, or can't. On our list of things to do in order to make next month's rent or last July's credit bill, most of us lack the time and patience to get informed enough to be "regular" voters. If more of us knew about the Legislature's inability to cope with rising tuition costs or understood exactly where Schools and Families levy money went, I guarantee you would see a broader base of young voters.

But we are left out of the game, because we are looked at as lazy, unreliable, or uninformed.

Maybe we have just as long of a to-do list as the rest of you. We just lack the years of experience getting it all done on time to crack a beer and watch Dancing with the Stars while dinner is getting made for us.

@ Toby, thanks for an interesting post.
Oh. What whiney bullshit excuse making. There is nothing more to say. This article is complete bullshit.
I'm way too old to be considered "youth" anymore but I'm back in school full time so I'm in a youthful milieu, and I've had voter registration forms shoved in my face so many times it's actually starting to get kind of annoying. Seriously, I can't walk across the university campus or downtown without some eager kid with a clipboard approaching me and asking me if I'm registered to vote. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but it's hard to take the content of this post seriously.

@20, You could have registered to vote at least a couple times in the amount of time it took you to write that 400-word essay about how busy you are.
Having been an active part in this voter registration drive I definitely agree with Toby. When young people were saying "I hate politics" and I asked why I mostly got answers like "politicians don't care about me" and I saw not apathy but a feeling of powerlessness. When I explained how close elections are in Washington and gave examples of names of representatives that had worked on issues THEY cared about and talked to them about the initiatives and referendums their attitudes did change! I can't tell you how many times students told me they didn't feel educated enough to make informed voting decisions. So many felt as of they needed to be political experts to vote. A majority of those who were hesitant to vote told me they felt that their vote didn't count. There are so few young, female and colorful faces in office many folks felt they weren't represented and wouldn't be. Also a very large amount of people filled out the form incorrectly because it's confusing as to what was optional and what wasn't. Many young people who were out of state students had no idea they had to re register and that it was illegal to have their ballots forwarded. In my entire summer working with the bus and this fall working with WSA it wasn't apathy. It was access. And considering the large volume of voter ID laws popping up all over the country-- there are people who know that and know that young people can and do want to make a difference.
Young people are like two yr olds - they'll always vote themselves free cookies. Just wait until they actually start paying taxes.
I can vote for Inslee now he made a 'read my lips, no new taxes' promise!
young people have a concern, which old people then mock - film at 11!

also, @24

"Young people are like two yr olds"...

are you saying that two year olds aren't young people? you might have broken my brain. oh, then you sarcastically advocate a state income tax again! you rascal!
@26 it'll be good to see young people voting for Jay "no new taxes" Inslee!
@17 - Sam Reed is not a teabagger. If you think otherwise, you're crazy. Then again, you claim the occupy mantle, so that goes with the territory I guess.

@24 - Young people don't pay sales tax? Or gas tax? Or federal income tax? And they get free cookies instead of massive student debt? Well huh.
But we are left out of the game, because we are looked at as lazy, unreliable, or uninformed.

You're left out of the game because you're too stupid and lazy to vote.
As a former member of the coalition, the "it's systemically hard to register" argument is bullshit. The real argument is in the paragraph about civic infrastructure.

That's what we learn is needed for new democracies to flourish in places like Egypt. A lack of civic infrastructure can make democratic participation much less likely. This is empirical.

So, we think we've solved the democracy game here in America. We think we're the greatest country in the world, fuck yeah! But we're missing that civic infrastructure for vast segments of our population.

Civic organizations don't necessarily have to be political activist organizations to breed that sense of civic responsibility in their members, either. So... the point is, we need greater civic institutions across all levels of society to engage and impress upon all the value of community.

In the meantime, I'll settle for post-paid ballot envelopes like a civilized place that pays taxes. Oh, wait.
#28, aka Pridge Wessea,
So glad you chimed in here, Mr. Republican. Let me guess, you are going to tell me Sam Reed is not like "those" Republicans. He's a "good" Republican, right? I thought so four years ago, when I voted for him. But my my. How 2012 elections have brought out true colors of these so-called "moderate" Republicans. Here are just some actions Sam Reed has taken that puts him right up there with his Tea Party Republican Secretaries of State in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. And Kim Wyman is just waiting in the wings to take on the mantle of the new breed of Republicans, otherwise known as I'll-say-anything-you-want-to-hear-to-get-elected-but-secretly-there-is-no-difference-between-me-and-the-radical-right:

1. Sam Reed requests the same database that Florida Republicans are using to purge legitimate American citizen voters from the voter lists. And when the news media finally catches onto what he's trying to do, he backs off with some excuse. Kim Wyman doesn't call out that what Sam Reed is doing is wrong. She just says she'd rather use a different database to suppress votes. Could it be because he's endorsed and groomed her to do pull the same stunts?

2. In 2012, Sam Reed's founding organization Mainstream Republicans has their Executive Director Alex Hayes committing voter fraud against Ron Paul supporters during the caucuses. You might say who cares, since it's the Republican primaries. But an organization so willing to commit voter fraud against its own party will not hesitate to commit voter suppression against its opponents. Again, not a peep from Kim Wyman. Now, you might say that Ron Paul supporters are radical Republicans and deserve to have their votes suppressed. But last time I checked, any Secretary of State who personally oversees an organization that is accused of voter fraud is pretty extreme right-wing-tea-party to me.

3. In 2011, Sam Reed's favorite organization Freedom Foundation tries to pressure legislators in the Sunshine Committee to allow Secretary of State to use jury duty data to purge voters. On the off chance that there is a civic-minded jury serving legal resident who isn't American citizen AND who is somehow motivated to voting illegal. Never in my life heard of such a thing, but they tried anyways. Did Kim Wyman protest or raise a red flag, as Thurston County Auditor? Not a whisper.

Go ahead. Tell us your pretty little lies about how this Republican or that Republican is not like the others. How we should trust you guys and turn over our voting rights to them, even though they are getting tons of money from the same individuals backing radical Tea Party Republicans in other states. Go ahead, tell us about how we should trust newspaper endorsements that tell us it's ok to vote Republican this time, just to mix things up. Even though Seattle Times has been caught taking in money from Republican PACs and running ads for Rob McKenna. You can tell us whatever lies and spin you want, but you know what? I DON'T TRUST YOU, REPUBLICANS! NONE OF YOU ARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE.