Is it worth it to vote in the midterm elections?

cartoon drawing
illustration by Sarah Hofstedt

It seems as though young people are divided among those who are “woke” and those who are caught in a dream, forgotten the instant we roll over to check our phones.

Regardless of where we fall on the spectrum, the majority use the internet. They dive deeper into “wokeness” using social media to find like-minded people to tribe with or troll those they don’t agree with. On the other hand, they indulge in fantasies, rabbit-holing into the oblivion of YouTube, Reddit or Instagram.

But even among young, “woke” people, how many actually vote? Is it even worth it? Admittedly, I’ve wrestled with whether I should vote in a past election I didn’t feel a connection to.

For two and a half years, I lived in a New Jersey suburb on the outskirts of New York. When the time came to elect members to the local board of education, I didn’t vote because, one: I didn’t know who any of the people on the ballot were, and two: I didn’t have kids.

But even in that instance, I still wonder if I should have voted.

It’s no secret young people historically don’t vote in the midterm elections. A study at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tuft’s University shows a paltry 18.1 percent of college students voted in 2014.

Maybe, like me in New Jersey, some young people struggle to connect with the issues on the ballot. Or maybe they struggle to connect with the process. If the voting process was tailored more to internet users, we would see a higher turnout among younger generations.

California is off to a good start with allowing online voter registration.

Some people believe their votes don’t matter. Others are too busy. Maybe there’s no one on the ballot who appeals to them, they think the government’s corrupt, and our democracy is a farce, or maybe America is slowly turning into fake news, because nowadays anything can be fake news. It doesn’t even have to be news.

At the end of the day, if you’re not versed in the details of the propositions and open seats on the ballot, don’t vote for them. Vote for Governor, sure, but don’t vote to repeal the gas tax law until you have had the time to study the issue and understand the nuances of what’s at play.

However, looking at data from several polls and studies, it’s clear that the votes of young people do matter. According to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune, women and young people can decide the 2018 elections, but only if they show up to vote.

They also have a large stake in the outcome, especially for women. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, do we want the people running the country to not be held accountable for their actions? Does that make America great? We should elect leaders who are just, not judges who try to escape justice.

In “A Dream of a Thousand Cats,” from writer Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series, a Siamese cat dreams of a world where felines are the kings and queens of earth. She learns that, if a thousand cats have the same dream at the same time, she could change the world, “from the beginning of all things to the end of all time.”

The hard part, a stray cat intimates to a curious kitten while simultaneously distracted by a “nice, plump rat,” is persuading a thousand cats to do anything at the same time.

It’s time we wake up, so we can conceive a new dream and hopefully get enough people to share it.