By Hannah Pollard-Garber, Guest Blogger
This November, the Millennial generation has the potential to shape the outcome of the election unlike any generation before it. Millennials, defined as those between ages 18 and 35, are now roughly tied with Baby Boomers for the largest number of eligible American voters. However, turnout among Millennials was the lowest of all voting-aged groups in the past three presidential elections. This election Millennials must vote as if they have the power to dictate the course of the election—because they do.
To further empower voters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has launched a student voting website as part of its statewide “Let Me Vote Campaign.” Because students and young voters are especially vulnerable to voter suppression, the ACLU developed its easy-to-use how-to-website called “Student Voting Made Easy” to help students register to vote and navigate Michigan’s voting requirements.
Young voters have the power to determine the future of this country. For example, in the 2012 presidential election, the youth vote was key to President Obama’s reelection. In swing states of Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania, the number of youth voters exceeded the margin of victory (http://civicyouth.org/at-least-80-electoral-votes-depended-on-youth/).
Unfortunately, Michigan has complicated voting for students. Michigan requires that in-state residents have a voter registration address that matches their driver’s license address, which can create confusion among in-state college students who wish to vote in their college town instead of their hometown. Michigan also requires first-time voters to register in person if they want to cast an absentee ballot. This restriction on absentee voting can create obstacles for in-state college students who wish to vote in their hometowns while remaining at school.
Complicated voter registration policies can negatively affect voter turnout. In the 2010 midterm elections, for instance, nearly one-quarter of Americans under age 30 said they did not register because they did not know where or how to or they missed the deadline. Compared to adults, young people were almost two times more likely to cite these difficulties with the voting process as the main reason for not registering.
Luckily, the ACLU of Michigan’s Student-Voting-Made-Easy website answers all students' questions about registering to vote in Michigan and provides easy-to-use links to guide them through the process. Students may vote in either their college town or their hometown. It is usually easiest for students to register in their college town because that’s where they will be on Election Day – but the website also explains how to vote absentee for students who have voted before or have registered in person at a clerk’s office or Secretary of State office.
Make your voice heard in this historic election! People have struggled and died for the right to vote. In comparison, it’s easy for us Millennials to register and participate in our democracy--so please use our website today. And remember: The deadline for voter registration is October 11!
A recent graduate of Macalester College in Minnesota, Hannah Pollard-Garber is a proud Millennial and an ACLU of Michigan post-graduate civil-liberties fellow.