By Anya White and Gabriel Gilbert
As the country faces a pandemic, a nationwide schism and a presidential election, voters will soon return to the polls to make their final decisions.
Statistically, age is one of the most influential factors of who will vote. Older generations tend to be more conservative, voting Republican. Their younger counterparts, including Gen Z, tend to be the opposite.
Yet, despite having limited access to the polls, many high school students are, unexpectedly, expressing their opinions and urging those who can vote to do so. This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has also raised questions about the safety of voting in person and about the health and longevity of two major presidential candidates.
Melanie Ramirez, an 18-year-old Oklahoma City resident said she definitely will vote in November. “I think that the voter turnout will be higher in our generation,” she said.
Another new voter, Anna Langley of Tulsa, said she thinks voter turnout will be higher for younger voters.
Statistics show the U.S. has one the lowest voter turnouts of any major country in the world, with less than 60 percent of the population eligible to vote. Data from the website PolitiFact.com shows that qualified participants, specifically young voters, are extremely influential to the election, especially the new generation’s swing voters.
Statewide, the Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma’s voter turnout is shockingly low, saying, “For Oklahoma, (the voter turnout) was 49 percent, about 44 percent of Tulsans voted compared to only 42 percent of Oklahoma City registered voters.”
Some activists are asking how they can raise voter turnout, especially among younger voters?
A younger Republican, 15-year-old Taylor Miller of Broken Bow, said he felt like his opinion isn’t as heard and respected as much as others. “Most of the kids I’m friends with lean Democrat. But I believe that all opinions should be appreciated,” he said.
Though many younger Oklahomans have, in the past, been hesitant to become politically active due to the significant number of older voters, more first-time voters are now saying they are eager to have their voices heard.
Others — such as Ebby Lenin, a 17-year-old Democrat from Dell City — said they are not worried about the turnout. “I do think the boomers are going to run the polls,” he said.
William Mulberry, a 16-year-old Democrat from Edmond urged those who could to cast a ballot.
“Although I can’t vote yet, I feel like it’s very important that we get our generation out to the polls,” he said. “Just because there are some major issues in our country that I believe our generation could potentially address.”