Young people need to make their votes count

Why should young people vote? Does it really matter?

The answers to these questions came with great stakes when Great Britain voted June 23 to leave the European Union, a decision dubbed ‘Brexit.’

Only 36 percent of the votes were cast by those ages 18-24, overwhelmingly in favor of remaining. The decision passed by a narrow margin – 52 percent to 48 percent – in large part due to those over 65 who cast their vote for isolation.

The voice of young Brits mattered in this election. Too many opted not to use theirs.

That’s unfortunate considering that voting bloc will be more affected than others.

There are more than 4 million people ages 18-24 in Great Britain, and most accounts agree they will be the ones most affected. Young entrepreneurs suddenly closed off from European markets and those working abroad who may need additional credentials are examples of those who will feel the immediate impacts when Brexit becomes formalized.

And there is an election coming up in the United States where young people also have a chance to broadly influence the outcome. Will young Americans cede that voice to their older counterparts, or will they take advantage of their individual and collective voting power?

In Great Britain, it was a clash between isolationism and globalism. That same issue has been raised in the U.S. with talk of closing borders and building walls.

Voters set records in the Michigan primary election this past March when 2.5 million cast their votes; the most notable increase was in absentee voters. That trend must continue, and young people especially must speak up.

Many believe the best way to secure a prosperous future for America and the world is to engage in a global economy. It will become proportionally more significant for later generations – like those coming of age now, with the opportunity to vote in what may be only their first or second presidential election.

Decisions that have implications this far into the future should bear the most significant weight for those who are going to be there.

People ages 18-35 make up roughly 31 percent of voting age adults in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. Of those, fewer than 50 percent turn out to vote in presidential elections (and even fewer in off years).

Now is the time to exercise your right to vote. It matters. Make it count.

State Journal (Lansing)