Youth vote may have been a game changer

Students at Florida A&M University cast their vote for the 2020 election. Photo by Delores Battle

This year, young voters showed up and showed out to make a difference in the presidential election.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRLCE), 49%-51% of voting-eligible young people ages 18-29 cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election.

It was a much better turnout than their estimated 42% — 44% in the 2016 election.

“Young people take voting pretty lightly but I personally think my vote did mean a lot because I took the time to do a absentee ballot and send it back seven hours down the road to my home town to make sure my voice was heard,” said Vincent Jones Jr., a Broward County native. “I think that type of effort alone, and type of passion to make a change makes it big.”

Young people casting their votes to let their voices be heard made a tremendous impact on the nation-wide decision for the next president of the United States.  The NBC News Decision Desk/Target Smart said that early votes cast by young adults in swing states – Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — helped former vice president and now president-elect Joe Biden in his victory back to the White House.

COVID – 19 also played a part in a record number of mail-in ballots coming from young voters this year with an estimated 10 million absentee ballots cast.

For college students like Vatrece Harris, who attends FAMU outside of their home state, they had a few extra steps to take to ensure their vote was counted.

“I am from Louisiana, so I had to register through the Housing Voter’s Registration Drive that was held on campus,” said Harris. “After that I was able to vote through a provisional ballot and cast my vote here in Florida.”

National issues ranging from police brutality, racial injustice, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects are believed to have weighed heavily on the youth vote.  To no surprise, these issues also differed depending on who young people supported in the election.

CIRLE found that for young Biden voters, the coronavirus was the top issue facing the country (42%), while young Trump supporters were more focused on the economy and jobs (41%).

Despite the final electoral votes from Florida going to President Trump, 63% of the youth vote was for president-elect Biden in comparison to 34% for President Trump.

Jones shared his thoughts about the message that sends regarding generational opinions.

“I think it tells the older generation that we as young people have a mind of our own and we are going to use our right to vote,” said Jones. “I think it shows that we are going to vote based off of what our experiences are, what we’re seeing and what we feel rather than what people are telling us.”

The more young people realize that their votes make a difference, the bigger difference they will continue to make.