An Age of Responsibility
It is the responsibility of Easton's youth to get to the polls come election time.
"The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."
This article of the United States' Constitution, ratified in 1971, states the minimum voting age for US citizens is 18.
Now, 40 years later, it's hard to fully understand the gravity of this statement. Added to the Constitution during the Nixon Administration, Amendment 26 came into fruition because of severe protesting of the Vietnam War. These protesters, who were mainly young adults, claimed it was unfair to draft 18-year-olds into the military when they weren't even old enough to vote.
"Old enough to fight, old enough to vote," was one of the common slogans used in the campaign to reduce the voting age.
Why do I say it's hard to understand the significance of this amendment in today's day and age? Well, I'll toss around some disturbing numbers. Those rights, which were rigorously defended, are no longer held dear by young Americans. In a recent investigation by CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), it was observed that only 15% of eligible young voters (ages 18-29) took advantage of their voting right in the Massachusetts Senate Election earlier this year. Even in 2008, during the presidential election, a mere 25% of young adults in Massachusetts voted.
It seems to me that we, as a young generation, aren't taking responsibility for our country's actions. How can we expect for America to travel in the direction we desire when we can't get up out of bed in the morning to voice our opinions and thoughts? America is a republic, and numerous powers are given to its citizens. However, we only get so many opportunities to actually exercise our rights in government.
Is Easton's youth falling victim to this disturbing trend? I have no hard numbers to back up my belief that we are indeed rebelling against the norm and understanding our impact as young voters, but I do believe the teenagers of Easton are taking their responsibility seriously.
"I've always been interested in politics and now I actually have a chance to make my opinions count," proclaims Dennis Harkins, who turned 18 this past month. "It's an unusual but exciting feeling. It makes you feel more independent and important. Knowing that your voice matters is a great feeling."
It is my most fervent hope that we, the youth of Easton, will never forget how privileged we are to vote. Believe me, I'm no "political geek", and I won't be spending hours poring over the resumes of candidates any time soon. But, when I turn eighteen in the spring of 2012, you can count on me to take my obligation and responsibility seriously.