Gen Z and Voting: The Final Standoff

Gen Z and Voting: The Final Standoff (Emmie Wolf-Dubin for YR Media)

In the last five years, Gen Z has come of voting age and they tend to be disillusioned with traditional political structures and parties, and are skeptical of mainstream politics. About eight million Gen Z are newly eligible to vote this year and of that number, 47% are BIPOC. YR Media’s “Control Z: #Vote2024” series examines the impact the young generation will have this election season and how more Gen Z candidates are looking to have a seat at the table.

With around two-thirds of Gen Z eligible to vote in the 2024 general election, the young person's vote matters more than ever. After YR Media got the chance to attend a SXSW panel on Advancing Social Justice and Economic Opportunity with social justice champions like Damon Hewitt, Melanie Campbell and Alphonso David, the need to vote became ever more apparent.

This election season will be a turning point for America, one way or another. Despite Gen Z’s 41 million eligible voters, an appalling 58% of these 18-27 year-old voters said they’re not sure if they’ll vote in November. This could mean terrible things for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. Campbell warned these prospective non-voters that “No vote is still a vote.” 

The panel was mainly focused on Black Civic engagement, with Campbell being the President and CEO of the Coalition of Black Civic Participation. Her organization was founded to be a champion of social justice and engage minority communities.

One of the dominant discussions throughout the hour-long panel was racism in voting and a massive misconception amongst Americans that the United States is a “post-racial” society.

“As long as there’s been voting in this country, there’s been racial discrimination and exclusion from voting,” Hewitt said. He later added that President Obama’s election was an opportunity for a turning point in this country, which ultimately failed. “The response to George Floyd’s death was the summation of a protracted movement,” he told the crowd.

“I’m tired of fighting for rights in this country like I’m not a citizen of this country,” Campbell agreed.

The panelists also discussed the ways American history bled into the way we view modern American racism. “I think many people don’t realize how skewed our history is based on where we learn it,” David, who was partly raised in Liberia, added.

This all came back to that central idea of the 2024 election. The choices the nation makes in the coming days will dictate what the country is going to look like. Campbell commented on this, saying, “If certain things are aligned, our structure, government, and way of life will crumble.”

Hewitt also discussed how many of the people we’re seeing leading the government were the very same ones in school persecuting people like the Little Rock 9, Ruby Bridges, or the Clinton 12. Clinton, TN was desegregated in 1956, 68 years ago. President Biden is 81, former President Trump is 77, and minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell is 82. When we think about these periods of time, our current leaders are absolutely reflective of them.

It’s not very controversial to say no one really wanted a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, but the U.S. got one, anyway. The question now: what will we do with this rematch?

As Campbell said, no vote is still a vote. Each vote ultimately does matter, even in a sea of tens of millions. If Biden wants to beat Trump again in 2024, his voter turnout numbers may need to be even higher than they were in 2020, and the overall Gen Z attitude does not seem to be necessarily conducive to that.

Each eligible Gen Z absolutely has a decision to make in the coming months. The future is unpredictable, but this is something of which this generation can and must take a hold. The right to vote is more than a privilege – it is a right, one must be exercised at every given opportunity.

The ultimate question on everyone’s mind is who will win Gen Z’s vote in 2024: Biden, Trump, or no one at all?

Emmie Wolf-Dubin (she/her) is a high school student in Nashville who covers anything from entertainment to politics. Follow her on Instagram: @redheadwd07. 

Edited by NaTyshca Pickett

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