How Do We Engage the Unengaged?

    Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

    In March, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics conducted a poll among young adults aged 18 to 29, a demographic commonly referred to as Millennials. Here are just two of the more troubling statistics to come out of their survey:

    • More than a quarter of these young adults said they were not registered to vote, or weren’t sure if they were or not.

    • When asked if they were politically engaged or active, 70 percent said they were not.

    By 2019, Millennials are expected to surpass Baby Boomers as the United States’ largest percentage of living adults, and could soon become the biggest percentage of Americans eligible to vote, according to the Pew Research Center.

    So let’s interlace these two chunks of data. Pretty soon, Millennials will be the largest group of American voters. And yet, almost two-thirds of the adults in this age group aren’t politically active.

    Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this combination?

    I’ve never been one to jump on the Millennial-shaming bandwagon. In fact, after meeting Baldwin EMC’s latest group of delegates for the Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, I think young adults might deserve a better reputation than we tend to give them.

    However, it’s obvious we have a disconnect in America. Somewhere, somehow, young people in our country are losing the connection to democracy that was so heavily instilled in their parents and grandparents.

    I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong, but I do have a few ideas of what we can do right.

    We can help them get registered to vote.

    Registering to vote is a fairly simple process in the state of Alabama. When your kids, grandkids, or any up-and-coming young adult in your life turns 18, hand them the voter registration forms and offer to mail them in. You can access the necessary forms by going to www.alabamavotes.gov.

    We can lead by example.

    Whether it’s a local, state or national election, if you’re eligible to vote, do it. If that seems like an overly simple suggestion, it’s not. For the June primary elections in Baldwin County, only 25% of registered voters showed up to the polls.

    Later this year, you’ll receive a ballot and nomination packet for Baldwin EMC’s 2018 trustee elections. Whether or not you feel strongly about who governs your electric cooperative, it’s still your right to cast a vote, and you can set a powerful example by not ignoring it.

    We can have conversations.

    If you have Millennials in your life, maybe your children, your grandchildren or even your coworkers, why not engage them in conversation about political issues? You don’t have to spark any kind of debate, but rather ask them how they feel about certain topics that might affect them. If they have an opinion, it might surprise you. If they don’t, it might just send them on a path to learning more.

    We can support programs like Youth Tour.

    Every year, Baldwin EMC joins cooperatives from around the country to send young people to their state and national capitals for the trip of a lifetime. As Youth Tour delegates, these teenagers get an up-close look at the inner workings of our government and meet face-to-face with elected officials from their local communities.

    Millennials aren’t the youngest generation of Americans. There’s another, even younger group behind them. Should this trend of being politically disinterested continue, by the time this generation is eligible to vote, we’ll really be at a loss. If we band together and consciously make choices that set a good example, we can all cast our vote for a hopeful future.