Super Tuesday has come and gone, and another primary season is in full swing. If you showed up at your polling place, or just licked the envelope of your mail-in ballot and dropped it in the mailbox, you participated in history. Whether it’s the primaries or not, your vote is gold.  

Voting is not a right we should take lightly, and among many developed countries, the U.S. struggles with voter turnout, which seems counterproductive when we consider the large issues we have the power to influence with our votes, both locally and nationally.

According to an article by Pew Research Center, “The 55.7% VAP [voting age population] turnout in 2016 puts the U.S. behind most of its peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states. Looking at the most recent nationwide election in each OECD nation, the U.S. placed 26th out of 32.”

Voting shapes so much of what’s around us, from potholes in the road to who we choose to run our country and place in the seat of power. Not to mention, it puts people in power who, ultimately, should reflect the morals of the voters themselves. The people we choose to represent us also represent our home communities and who we are on the world’s stage.

In addition to the importance of voting in general, young voters are perhaps the most integral part to shaping policy and providing new ideas by putting the right people in powerful positions. Young voters have been labeled as America’s “moral compass,” influencing policy and power with a new mindset and social awareness. 

In previous years, voter participation among young people saw some of the lowest participation historically, but those numbers are improving, often set into motion by a passion for policy and need for change. 

In an article from The Guardian, turnout among young voters in California between 2014 and 2018 jumped about 20%.

Young people can change the status quo when they vote. Our perspectives and experiences allow us to inspect politics and policy not as a lost cause, but a model for a successful democracy. We can recognize what is working and what isn’t, and vote accordingly. Our votes are so incredibly valuable to preserving democracy and the character of America. 

Another interesting aspect of why our votes as America’s youth are so treasured is because of our front-row seat to injustices within our system via social media. In seconds, we can be made aware of a topic or event that showcases the need for change in our society. 

Social media also allows us to share our ideas and beliefs with each other and create community with other young people. When we use our access to media in a way that helps us become better-informed citizens, we can take our convictions and knowledge and put it toward electing good people and making good decisions for the community. 

We, as young voters, must understand our vote doesn’t just influence policy, but it is a symbol for changing politics and policy to mirror our generation. If we work together to make change and vote according to our principles, I trust that our national and local governments will start to look and sound like the people who elect them. We can choose leaders who actually lead, representatives who actually represent our values and help create a community that is in community with each other.

Consider all of this and please vote — and remember that your vote matters. 

Jordan Tolbert is a staff writer.

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