The voter turnout rate among 18- to 29-year-olds is historically lower than any other age group nationwide. In State College, high school students who led the local protests against gun violence also worked to encourage young voters to go to the polls.
Tara Hutchingame is a senior at State College Area High School. For the last few months, she has dedicated a lot of energy to helping her fellow students register to vote.
“I brought in some voter registration applications, and then I printed out some online instructions on how to register to vote online,” she said. “I think people think it’s a lot more complex than it is.”
Hutchingame said she believes voting is, first of all, a civic duty.
“For me, it’s just so many people my age don’t realize how easy it is and how important it is to make sure you’re voting,” the State High senior said.
Like many of her peers, Hutchingame became inspired after shooting survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School started a political movement to tighten gun policy. Seventeen people were killed in a shooting this February.
In that movement, making changes through voting was a major theme. One of the State High students who was also involved in voter registration drives, Kayla Fatemi, spoke about it at the local “March for Our Lives” earlier this year.
“As we become of voting age, it’s only a matter of time before we start seriously impacting who wins elections in this democracy,” Fatemi said.
Hutchingame carried a clipboard with voter registration forms at the march.
“My worry is that people can get together and protest, but I think people don’t understand that real way to create change and impact change is through sending out your vote, which is the less fun part of it,” Hutchingame said.
Hutchingame wants her peers to know, no matter what their views are, they don’t have to be into politics to vote.
In her senior class of just under 600 students, Hutchingame estimated that about a third of them have registered to vote.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the youngest voting group was the only one with increased turnout in 2016.