By Alec Pruchnicki
There appears to be a lot of enthusiasm within the Democratic party for the upcoming midterm elections. The recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, as I like to call her), the numerous victories in special elections around the country, several high profile primary fights in New York, and massive opposition to the policies of President Trump appear to predict a Democratic “Blue Wave” this November.
But, there are also problems with this narrative. AOC won her primary, but all other sitting representatives in New York State won their primaries or ran unopposed. One exception does not make a trend. Turnout in off-year elections has been steadily declining for years, with the 2014 turnout of 37% the lowest in 70 years. Low turnouts generally hurt Democrats.
The biggest problem is that the Democrats’ strongest demographic base, young people under 30-35 years old, don’t come out to vote in high numbers. Under the age of 30, Democrats outnumber Republicans 54 to 43%, but over 30 Republicans outnumber Democrats 46 to 39%. In the 2014 election, although the overall turnout was 37%, turnout for voters under 40 was 26%. When Representative Carolyn Maloney beat challenger Suraj Patel, the overall turnout was 13.7%, but Patel sent out an email after the election stating that only 2% of those under 35 voted (although it’s unclear if this was 2% of total voters or registered Democrats).
Supporters of the potential of the youth vote make several arguments. Notably, that if the candidates were better, young people would vote. But, the average politician is average, not a media superstar like AOC, Zephyr Teachout, Cynthia Nixon, or Senators Sanders and Warren. Besides, terrible candidates don’t prevent older Republicans from coming out to vote, as evidenced by the near-election of accused Alabama pedophile Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, and full Republican control of the House and Senate (not to mention the White House).
Even the argument that good candidates and meaningful elections can bring out the youth vote is yet to be proven. My internet searches, as rudimentary as they are, have yet to find elections where exciting candidates or issues bring out substantial numbers of younger voters. Maybe this article will encourage readers with more access to statistics to come out and prove me wrong. (Please, prove I’m wrong so I can have a little hope for the future).
Finally, the deficit of young voters affects the voters themselves. Issues related to older voters, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are given top priority by politicians of virtually every affiliation, whereas reform of student loan debt is given minimal attention, and little actual legislation.
The New York primary election for voters who are already registered is Thursday September 13th. To register for the federal election on Tuesday, November 6th, go to elections.ny.gov/votingregistration.html as soon as possible.
Hey, young people. Vote!