Young people in Wyoming, especially in Laramie County, aren’t voting.
Nationally, about 50 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. In Wyoming, nearly 35 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the 2016 election.
So far in 2018, the number of registered voters in Laramie County was significantly down among voters ages 18 through 24. According to statistics provided by the Laramie County Clerk’s office, through Oct. 3, of the 43,631 registered voters in the county, only 2,574 of them are between the ages of 18 and 24. In other words, only 6 percent of the voting electorate in Laramie County is made up of young people.
According to that same report, older voters are leaving younger voters in the dust. Of the 43,631 total registered voters in the county, those who are 50 or older make up more than 58 percent of the total number of registered voters. Voters between 35 and 49 make up 22.6 percent of the county electorate, while 25-34 year olds have 13.6 percent of registered voters.
Debra Lee, the Laramie County clerk, said she is concerned that young people aren’t voting.
“If you don’t vote you don’t have any voice,” Lee said. “This determines your future and what taxes you pay, what kind of quality of life you have in your community, in your state, in your country. You elect people who represent your points of view.”
Voting matters because it’s not unusual for a race or ballot measure to come down to just a handful of votes.
“We’ve had plenty of elections where there was a one-vote difference or a two-vote difference,” Lee said. “In 2016, we had an election for a legislative candidate that was one vote difference. So that shows you, one person’s vote absolutely makes a difference.”
Voting determines how we live our lives. If we want a change or stay the same, we need to vote to help lead society in the direction that we think is right for us.
“Especially young people, you think about things you want in your community and lifestyle that you want to have,” Lee said. “If you want to stay in this area or do you want to look for somewhere else? You have a chance to help shape your future by participating in an election.”
Linnea Rounds, an election judge, also had some things to say about voting and why it’s so important to participate in elections.
“You vote so you have a position,” Rounds said. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.”
It’s not too late for young people to get involved in the 2018 election and make their voices heard. Wyoming has one of the best voter registration laws in the country, which will allow residents to register up to and including on Election Day, which can be done at any vote center in Laramie County.
The vote centers are another way Lee and her staff make it easy for all voters to cast ballots. Now, instead of finding your neighborhood polling station, residents can vote at any one of 13 vote centers spread throughout the county. One of those vote centers will be right here on the LCCC campus, meaning all you have to do is slip over to the Center for Conferences and Institutes on Nov. 6, fill out the registration form and then cast a ballot.
It’s not too late to improve on that 6 percent registration rate for the 2018 election. Find a friend or two and make the pledge to vote. The three Wingspan editors are not currently registered to vote, but we all plan to do so at the polls on Nov. 6.
Like Lee and Rounds said, voting is a civic duty. It shapes what we do, where we go, and how we can improve. It’s up to you as a voter to decide how you want your future. Take a moment to read up on the issues and then go vote on Nov. 6.