Recently, politicians across America have been yelling out a crisis– the lack of voter turnout, especially among the younger generation. As each year passes, the percentage of citizens who vote seems to be decreasing and decreasing. In March 2015, the voter turnout for Los Angeles’s municipal elections was only a dismal 8.6%. This is especially troubling for a democracy.
Politicians and analysts point out to various sources to blame. Some blame the bickering partisanship of politics that turn people off. Others say that voters don’t feel their votes have an effect. Many simply say the younger generation is simply lazy. All of this may be true, but lack of voter enthusiasm isn’t the problem. It is simply a result of a bigger crisis our nation should be yelling– we, especially the youth, are not represented.
Just compare Congress to the general population. Women are 50.8% of the population; they make up only around 20% of Congress. Seventeen percent of the population is Latino; only 7% of Congress is Latino. These among many other discrepancies show under-representation, not representation, in the US.
As a result, why would my friend, an Asian-American teenager, want to take his concerns around an organization of mostly white males? Most wouldn’t. Why would women even want to vote, if all decisions regarding women such as abortion are going to be decided by an 80% male Congress? More relevant, why would teens and adolescents follow politics and vote if a majority of their issues are being voted by predominantly older legislators?
I’d like to point out a startling statistic I just read from the LA Times: funding for schools have been cut so drastically that even for school meals, there isn’t enough funding– only 16 cents for each lunch and 27 cents for each breakfast is spent. Why such measures? Don’t they recognize the importance of good meals? Yes, they do, but since students under college can’t vote, no they don’t. Essentially, most politicians don’t accurately represent for the sake of representing; they only do so to garner the votes. If minors were given the right to vote, watch how much more the government would fund school meals.
So, how does one solve this issue of low voter turnout? The key to increasing enthusiasm can be found in Linsanity. Personally, I never followed the National Basketball Association (NBA) games. To me, they were games relegated to mostly African-American/ white gods such as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. Basketball never turned my head, until I heard about Linsanity. That a young Asian American from California, just like me, was making headlines in basketball got me watching. It got me and other previously disinterested Asian-Americans (and Asians) all stuck up into the NBA. It was because we Asians saw ourselves up there, embodied by Jeremy Lin. As a result, even though Lin is now not faring well, I still follow NBA games.
This notion holds true with voting. Black voter turnout increased tremendously with the running of Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Similarly, if the government has a more accurate representation across racial, gender, and cultural lines, there will be much more interest in voting and politics. The key, though, is not that this will increase voter turnout. What matters is that it will reflect the democratic republic that our Founding Fathers envisioned– where the government truly represents the people.