Statistically speaking, you won’t vote on November 6th. Historically, midterms engage roughly 40% of eligible adults. In 2014 it was 35.9%. For young people, it’s considerably worse. Millennials and Gen Z have the population numbers to dominate every election. Grouped together with Gen X, they actually did outvote Boomers and the Silent Generation in 2016. But Midterms are a strange beast. While older voters understand their importance, young people are typically slower to get interested in politics at the Congressional and state levels. These races just aren’t as splashy as the Presidental cycle.
Until now. In the wake of Parkland, #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and the Occupy movement, young people are more engaged than they have been since the 60s. So many people registered on National Voter Registration Day that the organization’s leaders were openly stunned.
“No one that I know of thought we would surpass 800,000 voter registrations,” Brian Miller, the executive director of VOTE (the non-profit that administers Voter Registration Day), told TIME. “That surprised all of us.”
A recent Instagram post by Taylor Swift prompted another dramatic spike in registrations. Suddenly everyone’s optimistic about the youth vote. But registered voters don’t always get to the polls. Things come up. Bosses ask for “one more quick favor.” Especially when you’re young, struggling financially, and don’t hold enough sway at work to disappear for a few hours without explicit permission (here are the rules about your voting rights as they relate to employment, by state). With all the potential distractions plus crowded polling places, the number of registered voters who stay home reaches into the millions. FiveThirtyEight goes so far as to assert that voters failing to make it to the polls made the crucial difference in the 2016 election.
But if young voters understood how aggressively their elders don’t want them to vote, if they fully grasped the degree to which this right is being manipulated in order to prevent them from getting control of the direction of the country, it would be a different story. Because the second Millennials and Gen Z recognize voting for the rebellious act that it is, this whole game is a wrap. They’ll take their place as the demographic that every would-be leader swoons over. Politics in America will be forever altered.
Do you know what gerrymandering is? If you’re young and want your vote to matter, you’d better. In the simplest terms, it occurs when district lines are re-drawn — often in absurd ways — to shape who votes where. Republicans typically try to isolate cities, the strongholds of Democrats; while Dems attempt to pair cities and rural locations together, thus neutralizing the efficacy of conservative voters. Whether it’s skill-based or ethics-driven, Republicans have been far better at manipulating this system. They drew the congressional boundaries in six of the ten most gerrymandered states and eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts.