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Young people need to learn about importance of voting

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By Tom Hanlon, Teen Pulse student editor

As the 2016 United States presidential elections grow closer and candidates begin their campaigns for the highest office, members of the graduating classes of 2015 will be voting for the presidency for the first time.
To be a part of the election of a national leader such as the president is a great responsibility, however young people do not seem to be treating it as such.
According to U.S. News and World Report, voter turnout is a constant issue in the U.S., particularly among the young.
U.S. News and World Report went on to say that voter turnout decreased in the 2014 midterm elections in most states. The drop in turnout can be partly attributed to the fact that young voters often have an extremely low midterm voter turnout rate.
Something that needs to be considered when talking about young person voter turnout is whether communities and educators around the country are doing a good job when it comes to teaching the youth about their right to vote.
Turnout is usually lower during a midterm election, but this finding uncovers what could be a possibly dangerous trend regardless of the type of election.
One of the primary reasons the United States was first considered a free nation is that its citizens were given the right to elect their own leaders.
And we, as U.S. citizens, are expected to know that in the U.S., the people govern the government, not the other way around.
Young voters however, do not seem to be taking advantage of the system in which they can have a say in who makes the laws. In fact, they may not actually believe they have a say at all.
One of the proposed reasons youth turnout is so low is that young people do not believe they have a stake in society and thus feel that their vote doesn’t matter in the big picture.
Such a belief, if perpetuated, could set a precedent in which it is not an expectation that one need vote at all.
So why not just make voting compulsory like in Australia?
Voter turnout in Australia is extremely high, a whopping 94 percent in one election, actually, but democratic elections “down under” are forced. In fact, not voting during an election can mean paying a fine or spending a day in court.
If the U.S. were to have a system like Australia, it would be completely contradicting its ideals of freedom. So how do we as a society increase voter turnout among the young?
First we need to understand what makes young people want to vote. In the 2008 presidential election, President Barack Obama was elected to the presidency due largely to the amount of young people that showed their support of the first black presidential candidate.
Younger voters saw Obama as a fresh, young figure in a political arena filled with “old white men.” They voted for him partly because he was a “celebrity president.”
Regardless of Mr. Obama’s political goals, voting for someone because they seem “cool” and because they are overly supported by the mainstream media is not a legitimate reason to elect anyone. Young voters need to be aware of what the agenda, policies and background are of the person they are going to vote for.
The research that needs to be done in order to make an informed decision can be very dull for an average teenager. However, if they believe that their vote does in fact matter, and that it is an exercise of their rights as a free American, I know young people will make the effort to get out and make an informed vote.
Increasing voter turnout among youth is possible if communities and educators can inform students that their say in an election does matter, as long as the ballot they cast is an informed one.
To teach youth that it is their responsibility to keep true freedom alive by making an informed vote for their leaders should be a foremost concern as a new election approaches.