When results of the 2020 election came, I thought about all the time I put into writing letters, phone banking and reminding people to vote. I thought about the youth organizers I worked with. I was proud to be part of getting out the vote in swing states and Georgia’s Senate runoff. This election showed us the power of young voters and organizers. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement estimates 52-55% of eligible voters ages 18-29 voted in the election. I cannot help but think how many more wins we can achieve if democracy and engagement are more accessible to young people.
I was in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration. When I landed, I noticed a swarm of military personnel at the airport that had just landed as well. On the first day exploring the city, I saw the National Mall locked down with troops and police cars blocking every major road. Businesses boarded up their windows. I was disappointed to see our nation’s Capitol like this. It felt as though we were bracing ourselves for something terrible. But the work we had done as young organizers to get to this moment still gave me hope.
I watched the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in my hotel room. I cried tears of joy and pride to see the first daughter of immigrants be sworn in as vice president. I cheered as the 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman shared her words. Her voice in this moment gave me hope that more young people will be amplified and given a seat at the table in the future.
I now reflect on what this new chapter for our country means for young people like me. My hope is that we continue to take action for what we believe in. I envision a country where young people are part of the conversation in issues that affect all our futures. As Gorman said “Yes, we are far from polished far from pristine but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect We are striving to forge a union with purpose.”
I know young people are at the center of forging that union.
We must use this momentum to continue to push for lasting change and accessible democracy. We must ensure young people’s voices and votes are counted and we need policy to make that happen. I am excited about federal legislation like For the People Act (HR 1), which would modernize our voting system and enact a nationwide automatic voter registration, simplify vote-by-mail, secure paper ballots, and expand early voting. All of this would take away some of the hurdles to vote. I am also excited about the John Lewis Voting Rights and Advancement Act (HR 4). This would update the Voting Rights Act to end systematic discrimination at the polls. There is also legislation here at home (HB66) that is pushing to expand voting access and update our elections. I am so excited to see democracy more reachable for every voter and especially young people engaging for the first time.
As I look to the future under this new administration and I look to the policies that are on the horizon, I have more and more hope that the youth voices that helped elect our leadership and the youth voices that helped bring in the inauguration are amplified and honored. Our voice and vote is the future, and that future feels bright.
• Jasmine Carter, is a senior at University of Alaska Anchorage studying political science and communications. She is from Eagle River.