The March For Our Lives in Seattle and across the nation was impressive and impactful. Led and organized by youth, these protests give hope the future will be brighter and less dangerous.
One march is not enough, however. It must be followed with more hard work and activism. Registering to vote is an excellent next step toward a future with fewer school shootings in the United States and a better chance that children will be shielded from gun violence.
The Washington Legislature passed House Bill 1513 this year to encourage 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. The new law, proposed by Secretary of State Kim Wyman, also instructs high schools to hold voter sign-up events on Temperance and Good Citizenship Day on Jan. 16 or the preceding Friday, established in 1923 as a day to recognize the rights and duties of citizenship. This civic observance is not well-known, but now would be a good time to make it popular again.
Of course, registering to vote is just the next step. All the new 18-year-olds receiving ballots also will need to open them up and actually vote.
If the past says anything about the future, the likelihood of that happening is unfortunately low. Young people register to vote at much lower numbers than their parents and grandparents, and their turnout on Election Day usually has been much lower as well.
In Washington state, just 25 percent of 18-year-olds were registered to vote in 2017. And just 25 percent of those registered actually voted, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s office. Those numbers tend to go up in presidential election years. About 56 percent of Washington’s 18-year-olds were registered in 2016, and 62 percent of registered young people cast a ballot in the presidential election.
If 100 percent of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds across the nation registered and voted in the 2018 fall election, they could increase their influence dramatically. Lawmakers would have to answer to them when making decisions about gun laws, immigration and the environment, not their parents, the NRA or oil and gas companies.
Young people should not let their passion waver. They must register to make a real difference in the gun debate or any other issue that matters to them.
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