As young people, it can feel as if we are occupying an age in which someone else decides the rules. Only about 46 percent of eligible millennial voters turned out for the 2016 presidential election, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we feel like someone else is deciding our state’s rules. As young citizens, however, we forget that we have the right to make government what we want. We have the power to make better rules.
Think about what scares you about starting a life in Oklahoma. It could be the prospect of sending your future children to subpar schools, the tenuous access (especially in rural areas) to mental and physical health care or maybe it’s as simple as that crushing pile of debt you took on to educate yourself.
You are allowed to hold the government responsible for making your future more secure. Although many people will tell you that’s not the case, you are a shareholder in this state. The government works for you.
First things first: Register today
To make government something you want, however, you have to vote. There’s no way around it. If you’re not registered to vote, follow this link to download a voter-registration form. You can also pick one up at a tag agency, library or post office.
It’s convoluted, but the state or county election board must receive a physical copy of your registration. You can deliver it in person or mail it. You will not be registered in time if the election board receives your registration in the 24 days before the election, meaning Friday, Oct. 12 is the last day. If you mail your application, “it must be postmarked no later than the 25th day before the election in which you wish to vote.”
Once you’re registered to vote (seriously, do it), your efforts to make the government what you want don’t have to be a full-time job. The trick is to vote for candidates who will listen to you.
Make an informed decision
Embedded below is a list of every single Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate candidate with links to their websites. If you don’t know what district you belong to, follow this link and enter your address to find out.
There are, at most, four candidates for every district, so reading a little about each one won’t take but a minute. Again, find a candidate who excites you and will listen to you, because we young people will have to deal with the consequences of state policy for far longer than older generations.
Voting on election day can be hard. Elections generally fall on weekdays, and a lot of people can’t afford to take off work to make it to the polls (believe me, it’s entirely intentional). Luckily for us, however, you can request an absentee ballot or vote early to ensure your vote counts and that you don’t have to sacrifice something to exercise your right.
Holding the government accountable for your future in this state won’t work if only one more person votes this November, nor will a resounding voter turnout among young people change Oklahoma overnight. Maybe our demographic will fail to affect who wins in any given election, but the state will change gradually if politicians start accounting for strong, young voter turnout as they run in our state.
If half of us vote in November, politicians will sit up and take notice, because even the most entrenched insiders fear losing elections. We want our state’s leaders to fear our voting power because they won’t consider us if they don’t.
We have all the people we need. All we need is to show up.