For new voters, casting a ballot can be one of the most exciting parts of their year. The prospect of finally being a true American and fulfilling a democratic duty is exhilarating. This initial excitement, however, may weaken when met with broken machines, ill-trained and overworked poll workers and lengthy lines. Such was the Super Tuesday scene in Dallas on March 3.
Abby Dalton ‘20 was there to witness all the glitz and glory firsthand. Armed with a young eagerness to cast her first ballot, Dalton was the first in line at the polls at 6:50 in the morning.
“I think it’s easy to say that your vote doesn’t matter, especially in the primaries, but your vote is important in shaping the ballot in November,” said Dalton.
For the majority of Dallasites, voting is not worth the hassle. Nationally, Dallas does not pull its voting weight. Only 23.6 percent of registered voters participated in the primaries, and local elections are much worse—only six percent of registered voters cast a ballot for mayor. Those who do show up at the polls have an average age of 65, creating a gap in the representation of young Dallas.
“I think voting is definitely worth it, especially because there is such a stigma around young people not voting,” said Grace Risinger ’20. Risinger’s sentiments on the importance of voting echoed throughout the senior class who joined her in hitting the polls.
Jackie Thomas ’20 said, “It’s definitely worth it to know you’re playing a part in the democratic process.” Helen Emerson ’20 added, “It is important to vote. It’s what makes our government work. It can be easy to think that certain things don’t affect the everyday, but ultimately each government member and policy shapes the lives of the citizens they serve.”
When it comes to a presidential election, turnout averages at about 52 percent, but support in local issues and proposed amendments are never able to compare. In Dallas, turnout over ten percent almost warrants a parade.
A Portland State University study of the 2017 mayoral races found that turnout was low throughout the country, but Dallas had the lowest rate of voter participation in the U.S. with 6.5 percent.
In elections absent of buzz-words and big names, ballots dictated by impactful but uninteresting changes to city governance and municipal bonds are overlooked. Local elections should be held as the most valuable elections to participate in since they most directly affect its inhabitants.
Many factors diminish participation in elections, but the most responsible is a lack of information. Most young voters understand the big subjects being voted on but are not prepared to weigh in on proposed local matters.
“One aspect that I was surprised by was just how many local races and propositions you’re voting on, on top of the highly contested races like the presidential race,” said Thomas. “With the local races you’re likely making more of an impact, so it would pay to research these in advance.”
Research is a vital aspect of voting, and when discussing Dallas’ issue with the polls, D-Magazine reporter Alex Macon suggested a need for increased information. Macon said, “Voter education shouldn’t just cover when and how to vote, but why: the issues that matter, and the fact that in local elections, they really do matter.”
Government is not the class to fall asleep in. Knowledge on the structure and purpose of the US government not only lends itself to the creation of a better citizen but also a better society with members who are well equipped to challenge and serve their government.
“I feel like most young adults’ main focus isn’t on voting because they weren’t educated on the importance of representation in our government. For me, after I took AP US Government, I finally understood how important my vote is,” said Kate Janson ’20.
Nevertheless, 2020 continues to shape into a notable year. Keep an ear out for vote-worthy causes, and when election day comes, head on over to the polls.