It took passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971 to guarantee the right to vote to eighteen-year-olds. The fight for this amendment began in World War II and continued through the Vietnam War as young people found themselves old enough to be conscripted in to military service at 18, but often unable to vote until they were 21. The 26th Amendment changed that and gave all adults the right to vote. With the right to vote comes the right to have a voice in selecting the political leaders and policies that will impact each of us in countless ways. The kind of community you want to have, the policies that will guide your community, and the representation you will have are all impacted by elections and your right to vote means you can have an impact in each of these areas.
Despite the granting of the constitutional right to vote, actual voter registration for 18-29 year olds remains low compared with other age groups. Once registered, though, 18-29 year olds vote at the same rate as voters in other age groups whether they have college experience or not (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 2012). This means one of the biggest challenges to voting for those 18-29 is getting through the registration process. THIS WEEK IS CRITICAL FOR VOTING REGISTRATION: to vote in the June 12th primaries in South Carolina you must be registered by May 11th if registering in person, or by May 13th if registering online.
Register in person by May 11th – The Newberry County Voter Registration and Elections Office is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., and is located at 1872 Wilson Road in Newberry. Their knowledgeable and welcoming staff will help you with your registration! Be sure to bring your South Carolina driver’s license or South Carolina identification card with you to register. If you do not have these, you may get more information about South Carolina identification cards at https://www.dmv.org/sc-south-carolina/id-cards.php.
Register online by May 13th – Go to https://www.scvotes.org/ and click on the “Register to Vote” link. You will be asked for your South Carolina driver’s license or South Carolina identification card number, so be sure you have it available. If you do not have these, you may get more information about South Carolina identification cards at https://www.dmv.org/sc-south-carolina/id-cards.php.
Apart from the challenge of knowing when to vote, another challenge for 18-29 year old voters, as well as voters of other age ranges, is the sentiment that their vote doesn’t ultimately matter. In state and local elections there is nothing further from the truth, particularly in primaries at these levels. Fewer people tend to vote in these elections, meaning those who do vote get a great deal of impact at exactly the levels of government each of us encounter most regularly in our day-to-day lives. This primary season, that means that questions about which 18-29 year olds are particularly concerned about can be answered by them should they choose to register and vote. Better yet, when you register to vote in the primary that means you are also registered for the November 6 general election. So save yourself some time registering later, get your voice heard in this primary election where it can be particularly powerful, and vote again on November 6!
“Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote” it began as a phrase to highlight the importance of letting all adults vote. There are plenty of things youth have to fight for with their vote, most notably the kind of future and community you want in here in Newberry County and across South Carolina. You have the information you need to register. You know that your vote is even more important in state and local elections. Now is the time to take advantage of that right. Now is the time to begin to create the kind of political community you want to see, and to be an active participant in that community’s democratic processes. It starts with state and local elections, and it starts with you!
The Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 2012. “You Ask, We Answer: More than ¾ of 18-29 Registered Non-College Youth Voted in 2008.” The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement: Tufts University. http://civicyouth.org/you-ask-we-answer-more-than-%C2%BE-of-18-29-registered-non-college-youth-voted-in-2008/.
Dr. Laura Roost is an assistant professor of political science and Political Science Program Coordinator Newberry College.