Thirty-one percent. That is the voting power the millennials (ages 18 to 35) had in the 2016 election, according to Pew Research.
It was the first year that a generation matched the Baby Boomers in voting power and the first time millennial voices would truly be heard.
However, none of that happened.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported millennials only accounted for 24.7 percent of the voter turnout. This makes us ask why did only a fraction of millennials vote?
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I believe that some millennials did not show up to vote in the 2016 election due to the inconvenience of voting while in college. While many voters had strong feelings about a certain issue or a candidate, they saw the cost was greater than the benefit in voting.
We see this issue playing out at college campuses all over our country. That is why we have seen organizations, such as the Campus Vote Project, pop up. The Campus Vote Project works to increase awareness about voting issues to college students, while also working to introduce solutions such as moving voting stations to millennials in college.
Kentucky should consider a pivot in its absentee voting system. In a poll I conducted, which received 83 responses from students at Kentucky colleges, I found that 89.2 percent of the students said they would vote at a campus location, if the option was available.
What would this system look like though? We should allow for certain institutions to set up voting stations on college campuses. There would be a few requirements for students to participate, which include being a resident of the state in which they are attending a higher-education institution, to ensure the Electoral College is represented accurately.
If they met that requirement, students should be allowed to transfer their voting location to the college. When a student commits to a university or college or fills out an absentee ballot, they would have the option to choose to vote at the campus location.
Currently, college students have to travel home to vote or request an absentee ballot far in advance of Election Day.
This system would bring benefits in addition to increasing young voters’ participation.
Having these stations on college campuses might spur more conversations about the election, possibly mitigating the riots and protests that followed the 2016 election. If we encourage these conversations, we allow for our country to grow. People start to understand what others are thinking, which in the end allows for greater compassion in this country.
This system will increase civic engagement and educate younger voters on the entire voting process. In turn, this will create a lifelong habit of voting, hopefully increasing voter turnout in U.S. elections in years to come.
Will Deaton is an honors student at the University of Kentucky in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.