When then Senator Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, 51 percent of voters between the ages of 18-29 voted. The highest voter turnout for that age range since the 1972 presidential election. The national stage was available and millennials rose to the occasion and helped make history. In 2012, millennials again rose to the occasion and saw over 50 percent voter turnout among our age group.
A funny thing (read: sad thing) happened in between 2008 and 2012, millennials did not show up to vote in their local elections. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, during the presidential election in 2008 millennials represented 21 percent of all Virginians who cast their vote, but one year later during the gubernatorial election less than 10 percent of the voting population was identified as millennial. This trend was not unique to Virginia; across the United States, millennials sat out of local elections and reappeared during the 2012 presidential election.
We are destined to save the world, at least according to Time Magazine, but we can't do that if we don't vote. Our generation has been labeled the most educated generation in history. That statement doesn't only refer to our pursuit of advance degrees; it refers to our access to information. We were raised with information at our finger tips and as a result we seek out answers for everything. Our access to information also means we educate ourselves on the issue before voting.
Millennials are much more likely to vote based on the issues that they view as important rather than vote because of party loyalty. That trend has a much larger impact in local elections than it does on the national stage. Millennials' trend toward voting Democrat nationally because more often than not, we are socially liberal. As the scope of the election narrows to state and municipal levels, reform becomes the driving force of the millennial vote. Yes, social issues arise in certain states (Texas, Pennsylvania and North Carolina come to mind) but generally millennials vote to initiate change within leadership. The question is can millennials initiate that change?
The answer is a resounding yes. The millennial population is booming, so much so we helped elect the president of the United States. Population trends show that by 2015, we will represent a third of the electorate. Locally our impact has the potential to be greater. We are attracted to cities and as a result millennials make up at least 25 percent of the total population in the major cities across the United States. A quarter of the population (and a third of the electorate) can sway any election, especially when you consider few people vote in their local election. A recent study of Mayoral elections in the 144 biggest cities in the United States shows an average voter turnout of 25.8 percent. With voter turnout drastically low and millennial populations rising, we can not only change the conversation about how our government should be run, but we can influence who is elected to represent us in government.
We turned out for the president and will most likely be "Ready for Hilary" but the president of the United States can't save your local public schools, vote on legislation to legalize gay marriage, or vote against voter ID laws. The issues that matter most to us happen on the local level. Your local officials are the people who determine if your city booms like San Francisco or collapses like Detroit. Millennials have the numbers to elect quality leaders who care but only if we vote. Not just every four years but every year in every election.
Remember, think globally and vote locally.