Why We’re Still Waiting on the Youth Vote

High school students can register to vote in their schools but why do we not see them represented at the polls?

By Hady MawajdehSeptember 22, 2015 1:25 pm

Campaign strategists, members of the media, pollsters – they’re always talking about the Latino vote, or how politicians can gain women voters, but as long as we’re looking at demographics here, what about the youth vote?

Just saying a phrase like ‘the youth vote’ sounds very old school, doesn’t it? Which may make sense if you’re old enough to remember something called Rock the Vote. In the early 90s, the movement was credited with a bump in voting among 18- to 29-year-olds, but it’s dipping again – down from 45 percent in 2012, to just 21 percent in the 2014 midterms.

That’s an issue Texas Representative Eddie Rodriguez cares about. He’s using this National Voter Registration Day to take that message directly into high schools. Pursuing voters takes time and effort, so some politicians avoid courting young people because they don’t turn out at the polls.

“We go where the votes are, so it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg deal,” he says.

Often, politicians have trouble addressing issues that matter to high-schoolers, Rodriguez says, like the cost of higher education and job prospects in industries they care about.

“Particularly for young Latino students in high school, it’s opportunity,” he says. “For a lot of young people, politics, government, et cetera, doesn’t provide any of those answers.”

Hear more in the audio player above.