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It's Election Season, Must be Time to Smear Young People

The horrible, terrible, no good, very bad young people who don't vote and shouldn't vote even if they want to.

Apathetic. Selfish. Content to spend hours and hours on Facebook and video games but can't spare an hour to go the polls.

In some places, the caricature is even more grotesque than that. This piece argues that young people are so uninformed they shouldn't vote, and that trying to get them to—get-out-the-vote efforts targeting the young—is "morally wrong."

By that standard, it's "morally wrong" to try to get Fox News viewers to vote. More to the point, there are, of course, millions of well informed young people.

Yes, despite gains in recent cycles, the turnout rate of the young still lags behind those of older groups. But how much of this is apathy and how much of this is a frustrated idealism, a sense that the system—both the government and the electoral process—doesn't work?

For all the complaints about the apathy of the young, the Obama campaign has been one of the few to put serious resources into getting them out to vote. As Toby Crittenden, executive director of the Washington Bus, says, "We consistently underinvest in young voters, then we wonder why they don’t care enough to cast their ballots."

Whatever the reason, the low turnout of the 46 million eligible voters between the age of 18-29—who outnumber seniors by 7 million—means they're punching below their political weight.

My sense is that the idea of turning Election Day into a celebration could hold special appeal for young people. To engage young voters, put the party back into politics.

The fact is, for many young people – all right, most people – civic engagement is a should be terrific fun to vote and to stay involved after election day. What if the average civic gathering – whether it’s a political rally, grassroots group, school task force, or city council – involved cook-offs, improv or gaming?


Like Anne Beeson, I'm no longer young, but unlike her, I won't guess what would excite young voters. That's up to you.

Establish your own traditions, make your own party, Take Back Tuesday in ways that are right for you.

Eighth in a series. One/Two/Three/Four/Five/Sixth/Seven

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

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