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The 2020 election is in less than two months and this year will mark the second election that Gen Z has been eligible to vote in.
Gen Z by the numbers
According to Pew Research Center, one in ten eligible voters for the 2020 election will be from Gen Z, the most racially and ethnically diverse generation.
“A bare majority (52%) are non-Hispanic white,” according to Pew Research Center. “One-in-four Gen Zers are Hispanic, 14% are black, 6% are Asian and 5% are some other race or two or more races.”
The oldest Gen Zers are twenty-three this year, meaning the oldest Gen Z voters for the 2016 election were nineteen with the rest of the eligible Gen Zers just turning old enough to vote.
“What’s interesting is 2016 was the first presidential election Gen Z could vote in so the numbers were just smaller. We’re four years later and we have four more years of people that are now eligible to vote,” said Dr. Corey Seemiller, leading expert on Generation Z. “As we continue to move on through time the Gen Z voting bloc just gets bigger and bigger.”
Every vote counts
Younger generations tend to not vote because they feel as if their vote doesn’t matter, but Dr. Seemiller wants Gen Zers to know that every vote counts.
“There’s a lot of attention to safe voting and a lot of press around mail-in voting and voter fraud. I mean, anything that draws attention to the importance of voting is basically reinforcing the notion to Gen Z that your vote matters. If your vote did not matter, people wouldn’t be up in arms about mailboxes and the USPS not being able to deliver your vote on time,” said Dr. Seemiller.
The importance of local elections
Local elections matter just as much as Presidential elections. Navigating young adult life through a pandemic, Gen Z has been shown how important local officials are to their everyday lives as mask mandates and other laws for containing the spread of the coronavirus continue to be made.
“Because of the virtue of what 2020 has been, I’m hoping that people are realizing, especially Gen Zers, that local elections are just as important,” said Dr. Seemiller. “People are literally seeing life or death decisions being made at a local level.”
Even without the coronavirus, local elections hold the same importance as Presidential elections.
“Local elections are very important because the local community has a far bigger impact on your life than national politics does,” said Wright State University College Republicans Treasurer Jarod Kiser
Take activism to the polls
Gen Z has shown how important activism is to them through the recent Black Lives Matter movement and the climate change strikes of last year. Dr. Seemiller encourage Gen Z voters to take that activism and vote.
“You have a whole segment of the population that’s showing up at rallies and marches. Showing up to vote takes a whole lot less time and effort and can make a lot of difference,” said Dr. Seemiller.
Make an informed vote
Both Dr. Seemiller and Kiser stress the importance of becoming educated on the candidates and making an informed vote.
“Our research has found that one of the main reasons that Gen Zers are saying that they don’t plan to vote is because they just simply don’t know enough about the candidates and the issues to feel like that can vote with an informed decision,” said Dr. Seemiller.
A website that Dr. Seemiller encourages people to use is selectsmart.com which has a 2020 Presidential Candidate Selector quiz to help students decide which candidate matches with the issues they care about. Dr. Seemiller suggests using .org sites to find unbiased information.
Another way to stay as unbiased as possible is to surround yourself with opposing opinions, according to Kiser.
“I do my best to stay unbiased but I think the best way one can get unbiased information about the candidates is to actually be exposed to views that they heavily disagree with,” said Kiser.
Students can open themselves up for conversations with people who hold different political views than them and conduct their own research using reliable, unbiased sources to cast an educated vote in November.