Rock the Vote is a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to getting young adults into voting booths— and with very good reason. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were nearly 72 million Americans aged 18-35 in 2010, a year when the election was decided by just 82 million voters.
Unfortunately, of those 72 million Americans, most didn’t cast any vote at all. Census Bureau polling data showed that only 24% of 18-29 year olds voted, with another 25% of registered voters simply ignoring the election altogether. An even larger percent simply went unregistered. Less than a quarter of the 18-29 demographic had a say in the outcome of the election in 2010.
Gallup Inc., a research-based company famous for its public opinion polls, found that the current 113th U.S. Congress had the highest disapproval rating since the company first started collecting data in 1974. American voters should see this Nov. 4 as one large performance review for our public representatives who famously allowed the government to shut down for two weeks in October of 2013. During that time, over a million federal employees were sent home on indefinite furlough or required to report to work without knowing when their next paycheck would arrive.
No matter who was at fault for this blunder, there is no better way to voice dissatisfaction than participating in the electoral process, especially during years when there is no presidential election. In fact, this upcoming general election will determine some monumental decisions. Across the country, Americans will vote on all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate, and 36 states will have the chance to vote for a new governor.
These decisions are highly important, and the ballot for the state of Illinois is no different. Illinois will be among the other states to vote on replacing an incumbent governor. The current Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, is running a tight race against the republican nominee, Bruce Rauner. An average of polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics puts Quinn a mere 1.5 points ahead of Rauner. In a state where Quinn’s last election was decided by just .24% of the Illinois population, every vote truly does matter.
This election puts some interesting statewide measures on the ballot as well. There will be two measures put forth to make amendments to the Illinois constitution; one vote being on the Right to Vote Amendment, which both parties claim will discourage laws that require voter identification cards, and the other being the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights Amendment, which “strength[ens] the rights of crime victims during criminal court proceedings,” according to Ballotpedia.
In addition, the Illinois legislature has put three advisory questions on the ballot to gauge public opinion. While these do not directly result in new or altered laws, they can heavily influence decisions of the Illinois congress. One question will advise the legislature whether or not they should increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Another advises a decision on whether birth control is required to be covered as a prescription drug in health insurance plans. The final question will be used to advise the legislature on tax increases for those earning over $1 million to provide additional education revenue.
With so many decisions on the line in this election, actively choosing not to vote is perhaps one of the worst among them. However, there are a myriad of problems that face young adults who have the desire to vote, but not the inclination to learn how. The first step in the political process is becoming registered. Anyone can check if they are already registered to vote by going to websites such as canivote.org or elections.il.gov and checking their information. Thankfully, registering to vote has never been simpler. Illinois is one of 20 states where an individual can register to vote online. In just minutes, an Illinois resident can register to vote with information printed on their driver’s license or state ID and the last four digits of their social security number.
Those that were not registered before the general election deadline of Oct. 7 will still be able to vote by using grace period registration. Grace period registration is open from Oct. 8 through Nov. 4 and can be completed at a local county election authority. If an individual decides to register to vote during the grace period, he or she has to complete their election ballot at the same time.
There are also resources for those that are already registered, but unfamiliar with how or for whom to vote. By going to vote411.org, one can find his or her designated polling location and also design personalized information for comparing candidates. This website features a voter’s guide that can directly compare two candidates for senator, governor, attorney general, and other races on the 2014 ballot.
This election has the potential to reshuffle the entire House of Representatives who stand to make some huge decisions in the upcoming years. Your vote will determine who best represents your opinion on matters of net neutrality, climate change, and the expanding wage gap. The House will likely face decisions on issues such as gay rights, national financial investments, and foreign affairs in the Middle East. The only way to make sure that your views are being represented is to go out this Nov. 4 and make yourself heard.
Ballotpedia is an online encyclopedia dedicated to hosting information about American politics and elections at the federal, state, and local levels.
A resource for citizens to check voting registration status. It also includes information on how to register and locating a designated polling place.
Information about the popular non-profit organization, Rock the Vote. Voters can find resources for local election authorities, ways to volunteer, and much more.
General voting information with a customizable voter guide that can be used to compare two candidates from your local and state ballot.
An application for Android, iOS, and kindle devices that can be used to follow state and local candidates, check their voting history, and find out how to contact their offices.