Young Voters Unite
By Elis Estrada
Energetically shouting phrases such as, “Register to Vote!,” “Fill out your absentee ballots!,” and a simple but boisterous “VOTE!,” members of Marymount Manhattan College’s Student Political Association assembled around decorated event tables on September 22 in the Black and White Galleries, adjacent to the college’s Hewitt Gallery of Art in the main corridor.
Urging students to take action and exercise their legal right to vote, young student voters provided voter registration forms and absentee ballots for those who may be reluctant to participate in the nation’s historical presidential election.
Young adults ages 18 and older were granted the constitutional right to vote in 1972 and since then the struggle to maintain voter participation among young people has caused other members of society to deem them unreliable. Yet, young voters have had enough and are rising to do something about the apathy that has afflicted them for so long.
Jessica Merkel, 19, a sophomore photography major at Marymount, and first time voter, said voting is important to her because, “I mainly believe I shouldn’t criticize the government if I’m not a part of it.”
Independent young people of the Millennial generation, equipped with the most incredible resources—newspapers, television, Internet, and hi-tech cellular phones that act as personal assistants—are fighting to be heard among the powerful politicians and media giants who do not take them seriously.
Movements and groups, large and small, have been working hard to persuade young people that their vote does count in an election where it could actually determine the outcome. Government and politics does not take precedence at Marymount Manhattan College; clubs and organizations catering to the college’s population of theater, dance, and communication majors are favored instead. But the Student Political Association exemplifies the initiative of individuals young and old advocating for youth voting participation.
Websites including, DoSomething.org, DeclareYourself.org, and RocktheVote.org have been successful in campaigning for young voter interest in government. The individuals behind DoSomething.org believe that young people can make a difference and aim to inspire Generation Y. Their website encourages young people to look beyond what they believe is a media saturated culture where one’s abilities are judged by ownership of brands and consumer products and not true intellect and contributions made to society. Tools and resources provided by such organizations create a grassroots effort with forces leading to engage individuals to actively participate in the Nation’s government of the people.
Cassandra Neville, 21, a senior dance major at Marymount said, “You can’t always grasp the information from what the media tells you online or on television.” Neville continued: “Sometimes you just need to listen to what other people have to say, it helps to form your own opinion about issues.”
One of the reasons attributed to young voter apathy is they assume their vote will not matter. Sam Carcamo, 21, a senior communication arts major at Marymount is determined not to vote, saying, “Perhaps in the future my vote might make a difference, but right now as a kid coming from a low rent paying urban family, no matter what people say, my vote will not make a difference.”
When asked for whom he would have voted, he replied, “Barrack Obama, only because he is a minority and I’m a minority.”
According to the “History of Voting” fact sheet at DoSomething.org, the Millennial generation is the largest and most ethnically diverse in U.S History, comprising one-fifth of the electorate vote, and by 2012, is expected to comprise one-third of the electorate.
Young voters whose lives were shaped by the tragedies of September 11, 2001, may have a unique perspective of the world and their responsibility to make a difference. Meghan Pilling, 21, a senior dance major at Marymount, is going to vote but has not made a decision for whom yet.
When asked about her indecisiveness, Pilling said, “I’m still trying to learn about each side. I think it’s irresponsible to not be informed, and I fall into that category, but I’m trying to get better at it.” After a brief pause she added, “But, young people are more involved than ever and I think we can make a difference.”
A simple gathering of the Student Political Association at Marymount ignited a spark in young individuals to stop—on the way to class, or to the fourth floor café to meet with friends—and spend a brief period doing something so simple, yet so decisive to their futures.