Youth are not only the future of the country, we are the present.
Last year, 52% of young people voted — up just two percentage points from 2016. On the other hand, over the past four years, activism and mobilization, in regard to issues affecting Gen Z, has risen.
Despite the enthusiasm and youth leadership we are seeing across the globe, actual voting behaviors have not changed.
This is due, in part, to the accessibility of polling locations and the rise of voter suppression.
Every person deserves a right in the democratic process, regardless of their party affiliation, their race, gender or age. Young people, especially, have exorbitantly high stakes in the outcomes of the election, simply because we will be alive longer to see the results of failed (or successful) policies.
When young people don’t vote, our voices are not heard and politicians are free to make decisions based solely off of unrepresentative characteristics.
It is the onus of our generation to reclaim our opportunity and voice in the democratic process.
Through the democratic process, the voices of the people can be heard and taken into account.
Therefore, it is important that all of our voices can be heard, and during these unprecedented times, doing just that may prove to be more difficult than before.
During last year’s 2020 Maryland legislative session that was cut short due to the pandemic, student voter turnout was remarkably low, and Maryland lawmakers want to introduce a bill that would make it easier not only for students, but military service members as well to vote in elections.
The Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act, penned by House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) would do exactly that, allowing for a greater representation of voices to shape our community.
On February 23, the Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act passed through the Maryland House of Delegates and is now awaiting a vote in the Maryland State Senate.
The SMVEA, if enacted, would allow for large residential centers, such as universities, military bases and even senior community centers to request on-site polling places, granting an ease of access to those that may not traditionally have been able to participate and have a say in their community.
Universities and colleges would also be required to increase their voter registration efforts and give students excused absences to vote if they would not have otherwise.
Higher education institutions would be required to create websites containing more information regarding voting, and on the military side of things, service members would be able to register to vote online using their Department of Defense Common Access Cards.
Many service members don’t serve near embassies or post offices and cannot register under the current Maryland system.
To create a better environment for everyone, we need to hear everyone’s voices, to work together for a better, brighter future.
The Maryland General Assembly needs to pass the SMVEA! Please contact your representative and ask them to support HB156 and SB283 — increasing voter enfranchisement. To find your elected officials go to www.mdelect.net.
To learn more about the legislation, and the Maryland Public Interest Group (organizing body) go to https://marylandpirg.org/feature/mdp/modernize-vote
By CHAD LEO
Letter to the editor
Photo image by Bradley Boardman.