By Kim Gill
In 1971 when the Voting Rights Act was amended to include age as a qualifier, it was understood that 18-21 years olds had single-purpose issues that would drive them to the polls. The same is true today, yet we are put in a position of having to not only defend but reiterate why this demographic deserves the right to vote. What’s bizarre is that we have to defend it against the only millennial running for president for his party. You would assume that being a millennial and a man of color would make a candidate relatable to the youth vote. However, this isn’t the case with Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old businessman from Ohio running for the GOP presidential nomination.
In his bid for the presidency, Ramaswamy has made it his mission to appeal to the most fringe conservatives with his extreme and dated views. One of which is his proposal to revoke voting rights for people ages 18 to 24 and force this demographic to pass a civics test in order to “earn the right to vote.” This proposal is not only unconstitutional but draconian. The idea that the older generation is more educated in civics is highly subjective and negates young voters who are civically engaged and politically active.
While I agree that all voters should know the essential functions of government, I don’t agree that being well-versed in civics should determine your right to vote. You are still affected by the issues regardless of how extensive your knowledge is on the subject. There are a myriad of issues that affect people ages 18 to 24 that would drive them to the polls, and this demographic deserves the right to vote on these issues that affect them.
We can’t ignore what has been happening in this country recently and how certain landmark decisions – especially the ones made by the Supreme Court – have impacted this demographic. We also can’t ignore the impact of the many policies being driven by culture wars. One of these key issues affecting the youth voters is housing. Almost half of the homeless population is LGBTQ youth who have either been disowned by their families or ran away from home for their own safety. Housing is also a huge issue for an often overlooked part of this age range, parents between the ages of 18-24, and even more so for young mothers dealing with domestic violence. Housing also impacts 18-year-olds who aged out of the foster care system without having been adopted.
Another issue impacting this demographic is access to healthcare. Some young people work jobs and earn incomes that exceed the qualifications for Medicaid, yet their incomes aren’t enough for them to afford market insurance. And if they can afford insurance, the type of healthcare they receive is inadequate. We have a maternal health crisis in this country that is harming young Black women, an issue that has been made a priority by the Biden/Harris administration. We also have the issue of young women having access to birth control and abortions ever since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. In the states where birth is being forced on young women especially, childcare is either too expensive or not available for young parents.
Lastly, two issues that we see impacting this demographic daily are the costs of tuition and climate. It’s extremely sad to see young people forgo attending college, or otherwise sign away their lives and join the military just to afford tuition. It’s even sadder to see young people graduate into astronomical debt. In regards to climate, we are in an extremely dire state, yet we are still debating on whether or not it’s real despite experiencing extreme weather conditions.
Overall, the right to vote has always been about the issues that impact us, and that’s how it should be. In my opinion, Ramaswamy would rather this demographic not have the right to vote not because they aren’t well-versed in civics, but because he knows that this demographic would not turn out to vote for him, because even as a millennial, he appeals far more to boomers.