In America, young people don't vote, especially in midterms. In the 2014 midterms, only 16.6 percent of people aged 18 to 29 headed to the polls, compared to 36.4 percent of the general population. According to polls, most young people think they have little or no impact on outcomes. The good news is that they're dead wrong.
Missouri has 991,409 young people eligible to vote. If they participated at the same rate as the rest of the electorate, they would constitute a bloc of 196,298 additional votes. In a tight race like the one between Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Attorney General Josh Hawley, a proportionally increased youth voter turnout could be enough to turn the election decisively for one candidate. Polls suggest young people lean heavily in McCaskill's favor.
Recent polling data suggest the race is so close that it's within the margin of error of each poll. RealClearPolitics has Hawley ahead by only two-tenths of a percentage point. FiveThirtyEight expects a turnout of 2.2 million. If the RealClearPolitics poll numbers held, it would mean a Hawley victory by only 4,450 votes. If preference polls among young voters bore out, a potential 12,000 votes would go to McCaskill — provided they actually went to the polls.
Young people in Missouri have a very real opportunity to determine the result of the election. Did we mention the key ingredient here? They have to get to the polls.
The Missouri Senate election is not an aberration. Young people could have swung the 2016 presidential election as well. Youth turnout was approximately 50 percent, while turnout for the general population was 60.2 percent. The United States has 53.7 million young, eligible voters. Boost youth turnout by 10 percentage points, split according to the actual youth vote with 55 percent of support going to Clinton and 37 percent going to Trump, and Clinton's popular vote margin would have widened by 985,932 votes.
To win the Electoral College, Clinton needed only Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — states she lost by a total of only around 79,000 votes. With an additional 985,932 votes from young voters, Clinton would have needed only 8 percent of that extra voting power concentrated in the three battleground states to prevail in the Electoral College.
In other words, increased youth turnout probably would have altered the result and handed Clinton the election.
Excuses abound for their reason not to vote. College gets in the way. The choices are lousy. The dog ate their registration card. Voting can be inconvenient, especially for students, but if grandparents can make it to the polls, so can their grandchildren. It's time for young people to stand up, grow up, embrace their democratic responsibility and, most importantly, start taking control of their own future.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH