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    Cater to Us!

    2008 saw the rise of a growing, powerful and concerned voting electorate. Politicians, as well as political pundits, underestimated the engagement and ultimately the voting power of youth in America during that presidential election cycle.  Yet again we’re seeing that play out again.  There’s all this talk about the disengagement of my generation; but why would we be engaged – when neither of the candidates or their campaigns are addressing the issues that will directly affect us?  I want to vote – because I have something at stake and my voice is important and my vote is the way to influence the world around me – but these politicians need to earn my vote.

    Flashback to 2008: Millennials voted in that presidential election in record numbers because we were engaged by the political process; and it was our overwhelming engagement that led to the victory of President Obama.

    The number of youth under 30 is rapidly rising and diversifying.  Soon young adults under the age of 30 will make up nearly a fourth of the voting age population.  If that’s not enough proof of the power young Americans could have, consider the estimated 16 million citizens that have turned 18 since the 2008 elections.  These candidates can’t win without our support on November 6th, 2012 – and they should realize that.

    So if Mitt Romney and President Obama want our vote, they need to engage us.  Talk to us about making college more affordable and accessible or job creation, for example.  Instead, the issues affecting young adults are superficially addressed, and only when it becomes a matter of convenience for candidates.  I would be hard pressed to believe that either candidate would have addressed the issues around the student loan interest rate hike, which congress has yet to fully address, had their not been such an outcry by students, families & numerous organization across the country.  And, recently Mitt Romney’s campaign released a graphic comparing his first 100 days in office to President Obama’s.  Looking through this chart, I couldn’t help but notice one glaring omission:  youth were not addressed at all.  By not fully addressing youth voters, both candidates are risking a lofty portion of the electorate not being mobilized to vote.  This is appalling to me and I imagine others feel similarly.

    I know we are still considered by many pundits to be the apathetic and lazy section of the electorate. Statements like “youth voter turnout is predicted to drop significantly in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, due partly to the decline in political interest among young people” (Youth Votes Will Drop Significantly In 2012 Election) So lets change the Narrative!

    To the young voters reading this, let’s force them to recognize the power we have and will have in the voting booths on Election Day, so they don’t continue to discount us or our votes OR worse, take them for granted.  We need to communicate to the campaigns that they need to communicate to us.  Make it clear that we want to hear from the candidates directly, and on the issues that matter to our generation.

    And to the candidates, loop us in!  I’m confident that effort will go a long way..

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    Alston Neville
    Bio: Alston Neville is a Advocacy Intern at Rock the Vote. He is currently a junior at Duke University studying Public Policy, and African/African-American Studies. Also He is a North Carolina native hailing from Pittsboro.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

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