What Voting Means To Me As an 18 Year Old

Issues
Image
Michael Lieberman sitting outside on the grass with city buildings behind him
Photo courtesy of Michael Lieberman

This blog was authored by Michael Lieberman, a Freshman at Syracuse University

In 2020, I became a voter for the first time in my life. This was a year unlike any other. Voting took on additional significance because of everything going on in the world with nationwide protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s never been more important to make your voice heard.

As a freshman at Syracuse University, it wasn’t an option for me to go back home to vote at my high school 3.5 hours away. Lengthy travel would have violated public health protocols and put my parents at risk.

Voting by mail was a necessity. Without having this as an option, I might not have been able to vote. Exercising this option was convenient and seamless. Mail voting should be available to all eligible voters, regardless of their age, physical condition, or the state they live in.

I am very troubled by news reports about state legislatures trying to prohibit the use of student identification as valid voter identification. This is wrong. If you use your student ID and security guards trust that it’s you before letting you into a residence hall, they are putting the building security at risk if they mistake your identity. Why wouldn’t that same level of assurance be enough for voting?

On March 23, 1971, Congress proposed the 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to lower the voting age to 18 for all local, state, and federal elections. This victory affirmed the right of all legal adults – like me – to participate in the democratic process.

This was an important step forward toward ensuring a democracy that is more inclusive to the broadest possible group of Americans. If we still existed in a pre-1971 world and I wasn’t allowed to participate in 2020, it would have been disappointing. I think young adults are very capable of making up their own minds and applying a code of morals and ethics to their voting choice.

Young adults have more information at our fingertips and are better able to navigate technology than any generation before us. We stay up to date on the news and can separate fact from fiction because we come of age in a digital world.

I see political information on social media coming from Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere. I don’t immediately jump to conclusions about what I’m reading. I think twice before forming an opinion and double check the original source to ensure accuracy. I’m not sure older generations are always so diligent.

Young adults should be taken seriously in the voting arena and older Americans should know that we take our responsibility seriously and make informed decisions. I vote because there are so many issues that are important to me and I want to live in a country where people are treated fairly.

I went to a school growing up that was quite homogenous. Coming to college, I realized that there were a lot of perspectives I hadn’t been hearing. Different communities have different interests and different needs.

Understanding that is part of transitioning from childhood into adulthood, where you have more responsibility. The responsibility of voting – one of our most important freedoms – is a good symbol of that transition.

The 26th Amendment gave a whole new group of Americans a voice in the process by which we select our representatives in government and participate in our democracy. Young adults have something to say and politicians should listen. We all want to be part of shaping America’s future and making the country better.