Election workers sitting, waiting for voters (© AP Images)
Haitian election workers wait at a polling station during 2015 legislative elections in Port-au-Prince. (© AP Images)

Young people can decide elections, but only if they vote. Recent movements to mobilize younger voters rely on their being the most connected generation ever.

“There is a lot that young Americans can learn from young Africans, and young Africans can learn from young Indians, and young Indians can learn from young South Americans or Europeans,” said Michael Jobbins, a director at Search for Common Ground, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization.

In the U.S., 18- to 24-year-olds typically vote at lower rates than their elders. In many developing countries, according to Jobbins, there is voter apathy among young people.

“[If] you are coming of age in an environment where you see corruption, you see that your tax money isn’t giving you benefits, the schools are bad, the health clinics are bad, the roads are bad, and the electricity is bad … the enormity of the task of changing the environment, I think, is something that drives voter apathy,” Jobbins said.

But as young citizens get ideas and solutions from their counterparts all over the world, they become more engaged and frequently see voting as an important civic opportunity.

Vote locally, connect globally

Voter education helps people understand that however difficult national problems may be, casting a vote in a local election can contribute to helping one’s own neighborhood.

To get concrete change, Jobbins said, voters should hold their elected officials accountable. And, he adds, voters can demonstrate leadership, and influence lawmakers, by proposing solutions to public problems.

“It’s not easy, but there has to be that broader civic consciousness that isn’t just about asking the state, which itself often lacks the capacity to solve problems,” Jobbins said.

A few years back, President Obama invited some young protesters to the White House to discuss policing issues. Twenty-one-year-old Leighton Watson of Washington was among them. He told GVH Live that he feels privileged to have met with White House officials.

“They are seeing us out there, protesting, they are seeing us out there talking about the issues, but they are also valuing our perspective as far as solutions are concerned,” Watson said.