Casting ballot

Next month brings the presidential election and Americans are ready to cast their ballots.

This year, young and new voters are no different.

In March of 1971, Congress proposed the 26th Amendment, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote.

Besides being an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it also proved to be the most quickly passed amendment, ratified by the states as fast as July of 1971.

While historically, young voters have had a low turnout, recent years have shown an increase.

According to the US Census, 20% of voters ages 18 — 29 voted in 2014, compared with voters in the 30-44 age bracket, who came out at 36% of the overall voters.

In 2018, the turnout among the younger demographic rose from 20% to 36%.

The data provided by the US Census contradict beliefs about young voter participation.

Montrose City Councilor Roy Anderson believes young voters will show up to the polls.

“I think because there is so much controversy and parents talk about it frequently, that young voters are aware of the issues based on their environment and what’s talked about at school. Because of this, I think there will be a good turnout,” Anderson said.

“We’ve encouraged youth to register and they can register almost to the day of the election. Most have expressed an interest in voting.”

While young voter turnout may have been a previous concern, Clara Carrasco, 18, believes her peers will vote.

“I do have a lot of hope in my generation, so I hope we show up to the polls,” she said.

Carrasco was a member of the city’s youth council during the 2019-2020 term. During her time on the council, she worked to register voters in Montrose, focusing on residents who came from a lower socioeconomic status.

Carrasco also helped people who had just turned 18 register to vote.

In past years, new voters often felt excited to enter the polls for the first time. This year, the general feeling surrounding new voters seems to be a sense of duty rather than anticipation.

“I don’t feel anything special, it’s part of my civic duty, so it feels more like something I have to do rather than a privilege,” Carrasco said.

Rebecca Pettis, 25, is also voting for the first time.

For Pettis, voting is a civic duty, but she felt discouraged from participating in the 2016 election.

“Last election being told by both sides that each party is evil, and it’ll be a waste of votes to vote third party, was discouraging.” Pettis said.

Pettis said that after the last election, there were 42% of Americans who would have voted third party, which would have made an impact over the election had they not abstained from voting.

This year, she plans on using her vote for the first time.

“When polled, they were all answering about the same, saying, ‘I didn’t vote because I was told my vote wouldn’t count since I was voting third party,’ so this year, how can I continue to complain and sit idly by, while during the last election, I could have voted and been part of change?” Pettis said.

Pettis described the feeling of anticipation as a “headache,” but she has decided to use her voice this election season.

“We shouldn’t be told to settle; we shouldn’t be told that our votes don’t count.”

Like anyone going into the polls, young and new voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots prepared and informed.

The Montrose County Clerk and Recorder’s office provides resources on their website, such as the 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet (Blue Book).

The elections staffers also encourage calls from voters who are looking for information or have questions, whether it be about ballot drop-off locations or registration information.

There are multiple ways to prepare for Nov. 3.

“The first thing I did was read the ballot in the Blue Book I received in the mail,” Carrasco said.

“I’ve also listened to some of the teachers at the high school because I know that when they do their research for the ballot information, they go really in-depth. It’s helpful to have all the information when you’re thinking about how you’re going to vote.”

Anderson also encourages young voters to exercise their right to vote this year.

“Study the issues, vote your heart and your conscience. Participate in our democracy. Voting is an important responsibility to exercise; it’s how we retain our democracy,” he said.

With the election less than 20 days away, Pettis reminds voters to vote early.

“Don’t be afraid to break the norm. I believe early voting is better than voting the day of, just because you have the whole month of October to vote,” she said.

While life can get busy between work and responsibilities, Pettis recommends dropping off your ballot at a drop-off location on your next errand.

“How often are we out in town going grocery shopping? Grabbing a cup of coffee? It’s just a two second drive-by,” Pettis said.

As for Carrasco, she asks that voters remember the importance of casting their ballots, as not everyone is able to vote this year.

“If you have any family member or friend not allowed to vote because of certain restrictions, it’s your job to represent them as well,” Carrasco said.

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