By Gage – 2012 Electoral College map, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35172210
When my daughter tried to register to vote in Texas, she ran into numerous complications. First there was the problem of what county she was voting in. As a college student she lived in an apartment at the edge of campus as many other students did. The university she attended did not even attempt to have enough housing for all non-local students. By the time she registered it was too close to the election for her to be allowed to vote. The next year she moved onto campus and had to go through the whole process again. However, many of her friends also had difficulty with registering. The state of Texas wanted all their documentation to match exactly.
Ironically, I carried around a driver’s license with the name of my street misspelled on it to vote in polling places in Texas for years. I didn’t even know where my voter’s registration card was. It was not necessary to have both an ID and voter’s card. It is unfortunate that we criticize millennials for lack of political involvement when we have made it harder for them to become involved.
My daughter and her friends were not alone in encountering difficulties registering to vote. Russell Dalton, a political science professor at University of California, Irvine has found that legislation passed by some states has made voter registration increasing difficult for millennials who attend college. This includes shortening the windows for registration, refusing to accept student IDs, rejecting some documents normally accepted as proof of residency and forcing people to register in person the first time. Dalton noted that it is economic necessity that often cause the younger millennials to move frequently. Many entry jobs are temporary positions that last less than a year. However, this means re-registering to vote or requesting absentee ballots. There are myriad rules concerning these in the different counties in throughout the 50 states, which just adds to the confusion.
Many have noted that the generation ranging in age from 18 to 33 are not attracted to organized politics. When it comes identifying their political affiliation, the largest group refers to themselves as independents. Their major interests are government alleviating the sky-rocketing cost of higher education and health care, which companies refuse to provide for the increasing number of “temporary” employees. As the recent election drew nearer a frequent response to surveys was that no matter who won, the next president would not address these concerns.
The truth is that they are highly distrustful of politicians, and they have a pessimistic outlook for improvement in government. Why? Because they perceive the leaders as corrupt. This view includes both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. When we were discussing the upcoming election my son pointed out the rather distressful fact that the candidates of both major parties were under criminal investigation.
The level of trust that millennials have in most American institutions has continued to shrink to historically low numbers. As baby boomers we are not fond this, because we see in it an inherent criticism in our institutions. So many people my age continue to level criticism at the younger generation for lack of involvement in politics and interest only in issues that affect them, forgetting the manner in which politicians courted the huge boomer generation as we turned of age in the 1970’s. But at this point I must agree with the millennials lack of trust.