Election Day: Voter Turnout

By Jamar Rucker | Contributing Writer

Courtesy of Parker Johnson

Here in Virginia, Election day will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2. How many of you knew that? According to a Knight Foundation report on why millennials are not voting in local politics, the number of you that probably did know and will vote is around 21 percent. That means that about 80 percent of you did not know or worse, did not care. Arguably, the most important decision of this upcoming election will be determining who is the next governor. Will it be Democrat Terry McAuliffe or Republican Glenn Youngkin? And, let me be absolutely clear: this op-ed is not an endorsement for either candidate. Why not you may ask? Because I personally do not care about who you are planning on voting for ( at least not for the sake of this op-ed). I simply want all of you who are reading this to make sure that you are registered and ready to cast your ballot on Election Day.

In 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Elections, the total number of people registered to vote in VA was over 5.5 million. As this was a presidential election cycle, 72 percent or 3.9 million people actually casted their vote. The following year, elections were held for governor. While the number of those registered remained practically unchanged, the total voter turnout dropped considerably, going from 3.9 million to 2.6 million. This is a drop of 25 percent. The drop in voter turnout undoubtedly includes young adults.Even though millennials and soon Gen Z will make up the largest potential voting group, we simply do not get our collective, anxiety-ridden, student loan-having, politically annoyed selves to the proverbial local voting booths. Funny enough, I even forgot to vote in my last city-council election back home in Alexandria! Why is this? According to that Knight’s Foundation report, a lot of it has to do with young people not knowing who their local elected officials are and feeling like they can’t trust any of their elected leaders. This sentiment of distrust was not only evident in the presidential election 2016, but it was also seen in the 2020 election. However, in the 2020 election, Virginia actually saw one of the highest youth voter turnouts on the East Coast. According to Tufts University, 58 percent of those aged 18-29 went to vote.

While the 2021 election for Virginia governor will most likely not see as high of a turnout for young people or any eligible voting group because it is a local election, it will matter. This election will still matter because we are still living in a pandemic. Student loan debt is still climbing, prices are still climbing, and jobs are still hard to come by. Again, this op-ed is not an endorsement of either of the candidates. It is also not a critique of either party. Rather, it is about presenting a few facts regarding voter turnout to hopefully convince you to get in line and stay in line to vote. If you are a Virginia resident and are unaware of your voting status, need to register, or need to find out information on where to vote, you can visit elections.virginia.gov. Lastly, I would like to state that research from the Knight Foundations states that young adults who receive personal and direct information about their local elections will care to vote more. Please get out and vote!