Monroe County politicians push to boost millennial voting rate

Indiana Daily Student: Now that all millennials are of voting age, the generation makes up 31 percent of the overall electorate, the same percent claimed by the baby boomer generation, according to the Pew Research Center.

IU senior Daniella Ben-Yosef registered to vote on campus last spring in preparation for the upcoming Indiana primary election. Though she is originally from Maryland, she said she thought her vote would count more in Indiana. However, on May 3 — the day of the primaries — Ben-Yosef did not go to the polls.

“It’s so inconvenient to get off campus and find somewhere to vote, especially if you are still in college,” Ben-Yosef said.

Now that all millennials are of voting age, the generation makes up 31 percent of the overall electorate, the same percent claimed by the baby boomer generation, according to the Pew Research Center. And U.S. census data shows that 45 percent of millennials — defined as people between the ages of 18 and 35 — were registered to vote in 2012 and only 19 percent of them voted in the 2012 presidential election, compared to 48 percent of baby boomers.

Mark Fraley, chair of the Democratic Party of Monroe County, said he hopes to increase this number.

“The millennial vote is critical to this election because this is the only way in which lawmakers are going to be able to hear what young folks have to say,” Fraley said. “Your way of expressing your voice is through the ballot box.”

A recent survey from USA Today and Rock the Vote found that 56 percent of millennials say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 20 percent of millennials identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

Due to these statistics, it is especially important to encourage millennials to vote, said William Ellis, chairman of the Republic Party of Monroe County.

The Republican Party of Monroe County will work closely with the College Republicans to hold a get-out-the-vote drive, make phone calls to remind people to vote and coordinate rides to the polls, Ellis said.

Fraley said the Democratic Party plans to launch voter registration efforts on campus once classes start and work toward ensuring polls are easily accessible to students by providing rides.

Ben-Yosef said she would be more likely to vote if IU had polling sites on campus that were easily accessible or more widely advertised. Union Street was a polling site for the primaries; however, Ben-Yosef said she thought it was a location to register to vote.

The convenience of online voter registration is appealing to millennials, Fraley said. The service has dramatically increased the number of people who registered to vote — particularly in the week leading up to the April 4 deadline.

In Indiana, 90,000 people registered online to vote this year in the final week compared to 6,500 registered voters in 2012, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“A lot of the younger generation are much more accustomed to doing things by phone or online than with pieces of paper or taking a form to the clerks office,” Fraley said. “When you’re actually communicating with young people on a digital level, you’re giving them a tool they’re familiar with and comfortable with.”

The Indiana Voters app allows users to register to vote, view candidates and find their polling site. Millennials have particularly taken to the app because of its convenience, said Ann Collins, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Monroe County.

However, regardless of how many millennials register to vote, the most difficult part of the political process is getting them to the polling sites, Collins said.

Collins, who has lived in Canada and Mexico, said she knows people in foreign countries who walk miles and wait in line for hours to vote, yet Americans complain if they have to get up early and wait in line for an hour.

To combat this, millennials should inform themselves about options such as early voting and absentee ballot, which expand voting time and location options, Collins said.

At the end of the day, millennials should remember that voting is not just a right, it’s a privilege, Collins said.

“If you don’t voice your opinion, firstly, don’t complain,” Collins said. “Second of all, you’re really not taking the best out of being an American.”