Too Young to Vote

by Etta Washburn
Also Featured on KQED

Too Young to Vote

by Etta Washburn
Also Featured on KQED
02.20.20
Photo: Adan Barrera
02.20.20

Every four years, my family and friends get together to watch an important televised competition. Only, we’re not watching the Olympics or the World Cup. Instead, we’re watching the presidential election-night returns. 

The first of these parties that I can clearly remember was President Obama’s re-election in 2012. I was 9 years old and I didn’t quite understand what was happening, but seeing people drink and celebrate showed me it was something good. 

That feeling changed in 2016. At this point, I was older and had a better understanding of what exactly was at stake. That night, the viewing party didn’t feel like a party; it felt like a funeral. People went home early. My mother sat in the kitchen crying. No one could quite believe what had happened.

Watching those results solidified the importance of voting to me. Since then, I’ve practically counted down the days until the next election. I’ve stayed up-to-date with electoral events and watched the debates. I’ve paid particular attention to where candidates stand on gun control and their environmental policies, as well as how they respond to questions about police brutality and mass incarceration. There’s just one problem: I’m too young to vote. I don’t turn 18 until January 2021, two months after the election.

This age gap isn’t just disappointing, it’s annoying. I care about who wins the next election because I know how damaging presidential power can be, especially after Trump’s impeachment. This upcoming election will directly affect my future as an adult and I can’t vote in it. It’s particularly irritating because so many people who are eligible to vote choose not to.

Despite my frustration, I’ll continue to follow the campaign trail and engage in conversations with my friends who can vote. These past three years have taught me that nothing in politics is isolated. Preparing to vote for president in 2024 means understanding what is happening politically now.

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