The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen 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.”
— Constitution of the United States Amendment XXVI, Section 1, ratified July 1, 1971
In 1971, 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds gained the right to vote. While voter turnout for this age group was high in 1972, its participation in our nation’s representative democracy hasn’t remained as healthy since.
National efforts in recent years to turn that trend around, including the rock ‘n roll-artist-inspired Rock the Vote project, have made progress in including young people in the political process. In the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, 32 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds cast ballots. In 2004, that number increased to 42 percent — still dismally low.
So, lawmakers and civics teachers alike should applaud new efforts to reach America’s youth. The nonpartisan group Declare Yourself and MySpace.com have teamed up on a voter-registration project to engage the social networking Web site’s 116 million subscribers.
MySpace, which serves primarily 16- to 25-year-olds, is advertising the voter registration effort on its pages and offering its users an option to include an “I Registered to Vote on MySpace” emblem on their personal profiles. As registering to vote becomes the cool thing to do, the number of young people who actually head to the polls on Election Day is bound to increase. And as young people take time out of their busy lives to be involved in this one small piece of the fabric of civic participation — which also includes calling lawmakers, volunteering and attending local government meetings — they will become more informed about the community around them.
The youth of this nation are its future, and we cannot afford to let them continue in their complacency. We should laud MySpace for tapping into its influence with its youth-heavy clientele, and we should also set a good example by registering to vote ourselves, if we have not yet done so. The deadline to do so is Tuesday.