As we come off of the heels of celebrating Women’s Equality Day — which commemorates the 19th Amendment that granted many women the right to vote — and look toward the National Voter Registration day and the upcoming elections, we realize how far we’ve come and how much further we still have to go. We’re living in a world where young leaders of color in North Carolina are being criminalized and detained as they try to provide information about voting; where the fearless and resilient citizens speaking out against police brutality are being criticized for having voter registration information during peaceful protests; where just last year, the Supreme Court struck down policies that protected the right to vote for the most marginalized. It is clear — that, for us to live in a true democracy where all voices are heard, it is critical that we prioritize the fight for voting rights and give the people their power back.
We have a unique opportunity to engage Millennials in this moment by doing more than asking them to participate in a system that we acknowledge to be deeply flawed. We have both the challenge and the responsibility to win and to transform the nature of the game. In 2012, 46 million young people ages 18-29 years old were eligible to vote, making up 21 percent of the voting-eligible population in the U.S. That number will skyrocket to 36 percent of the electorate by 2016 and Millennials will represent just under 40 percent of the electorate by 2020.
The rising American electorate is on the move. This group — which consists of unmarried women, people of color, and young people between 18-29 — makes up more than half of the voting-eligible population, 52.8% to be exact, and you can be sure that this group is organized, activated and ready to ensure that their voices are heard and that their votes are counted.
Voting is a fundamental part of our struggle to make sure all voices are heard in our democracy, not only as voting rights continue to be challenged by various voter identification laws across the country, but because exercising our right to vote is one of the most tangible ways to ensure our rights are protected and our equality is upheld.
As the largest and most diverse generation our country has ever seen, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our voices are heard and that communities that have been traditionally underrepresented, marginalized, and discriminated against have a mechanism in order to have their voices heard as well.
Voting is one of the most powerful ways to accomplish this goal. This is transformative work.
It is not just a political act; it’s a personal one too. There are many issues at stake in this election including women’s health, equal pay, gay rights, and immigration reform, just to name a few.
That’s why I’m so proud that Planned Parenthood Generation is joining forces with Advocates for Youth and the Feminist Majority Foundation to encourage young leaders to educate their peers, register voters, participate in voter pledge drives, and volunteer. Our 2014 Youth ShowOUT! campaign is engaging and mobilizing young voters across the country through on-the-ground organizing, social media activism, and online actions at youthshowout.org.
The ShowOUT is about more than just each of us voting — it's about making a commitment to educate odl and new friends to party at the polls, to knock doors and make phone calls to get others out to vote, and to celebrate when we see all of our young and colorful faces making their voices heard one vote at a time!
Our organizers on college campuses throughout the country are working with others in communities that are being targeted by voter suppression efforts to ensure that young women and people of color are engaged in the civic process and get out the vote.
As our motto goes, “We need to Speak Out. Show Out. Vote.” The present and future is in our hands. It's time to show up and ShowOUT!
Click here to learn more about Planned Parenthood Generation Action and how you can get involved.
Kelley Robinson is the Assistant Director of Youth Organizing for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.