by Gennette Cordova
In the state of Washington roughly one-third of young adults ages 18 to 24 voted in 2000.
“One in three, that’s sad,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed during his visit to Whatcom Community College’s Civic Week fair.
Whatcom is one of the 60 campuses across the state participating in Civics Week, an annual gathering organized by the student-led College Civics program. The program, established by Reed in 2005, strives to empower Washington’s youngest voters to make real changes in their community.
In our state, the population of people ages 55 and older cast over half of the votes during elections despite the fact that they make up less than one-fifth of the population. This type of representation is typical across the country.
“You can’t have a group of people ages 55 and older making all of your decisions,” said Reed. “That’s like having your grandparents pick out your clothes.”
Reed, who has championed major election reform in Washington, acknowledged the many reasons that students have for not voting. The most common, he said, was that they don’t believe their votes can make a real impact.
In response to this, Reed cited the 2004 Washington state gubernatorial election, in which Christine Gregoire defeated Dino Rossi by 133 votes out of over 2 million votes cast, after a second recount done by hand.
“I bet there are 133 students at Whatcom who didn’t vote,” said Reed. “They could have made the difference.”
Another voting obstacle that students encounter is a general lack of knowledge about the voting process and the candidates running for office. A great resource for people with questions about the voting process is the Secretary of State website http://www.sos.wa.gov/.
Here you can find wide-ranging voter information such as details of proposed initiatives and referendums, registration deadlines, and voting information geared specifically towards college students.
The readily available information on the site is just one example of our state’s efforts to encourage voting.
“Whatcom was the first county in Washington state to do voting by mail,” said Shirley Forslof, Whatcom County Auditor. “Now every county does it and you can register to vote online.”
The site enables U.S. citizens 18 and older to check their voting eligibility, change their contact information, request absentee ballots and register to vote in four easy steps.
Reed emphasized the ease and importance of voting.
“As quickly as you could download a new ringtone,” he said, “you could register to vote online and acquire the political power to change your life.”