The People Should Speak: Students should educate themselves civically, consider compulsory voting laws

Josie Cruzan

The United States is founded on the principles of democracy and the people governing themselves. As a result, one might think voting is something most Americans prioritize in their lives, and it is. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans said that high voter turnout in presidential elections is very important. But this mindset doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Voting is, in reality, something that Americans, particularly young Americans, do not do, and with the voter registration deadline for elections in Indiana on Oct. 7, it is even more pertinent that people are registered and able to vote. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks 26th for voter turnout and registration of the 32 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with just 55.7% of the voting-age population voting in the 2016 presidential election.

This has been occurring for many reasons, one of which is that American citizens are not taught to become active members of their community, especially as young people, to the point where a 2018 survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (WWNFF) found that only 36% of American adults could pass a U.S. citizenship test, with only 19% of Americans under 45 passing. It is not just for today’s young people that the importance of voting and active political participation is underemphasized. My own mother recalls her high school government teacher telling her class to not even register, because voting, she said, didn’t matter.

However, among OECD countries, many of those with the highest voter registration and turnout numbers have laws in place that either automatically register citizens to vote or require all eligible citizens to vote. For example, in Australia, where voting is compulsory under federal law, 91% of the voting age population voted in the 2016 federal election. If the United States passed laws that automatically registered people or required them to vote, there would be a significant increase in voter turnout, something that is currently a  blot on its reputation of having a government that is by the people and for the people.

However, since that is not a change that can be made immediately in America, the CHS community, especially students who will be able to vote in the next few years, should consider educating themselves on the issues facing our country today and registering to vote. Voting is the most important and fundamentally American thing a person could do, and it should be done by all citizens. The act of voting is one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to in my adult life.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Josie Cruzan at [email protected]