A Gen Z student on why their path to voting has already begun
By KIRK TINGA
I just turned 18. A lot of people say that means I have crossed a maturity threshold and now can do all sorts of things. I can legally drink alcohol. I can legally go outside under the community quarantine guidelines. I can legally vote.
I will be registering to vote for the very first time and I couldn’t be more excited. Last month, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) announced it was reopening voter registration. Although the Philippine national election is more than a year away, I believe now is the time to engage in the first step in exercising my civil right to vote.
I must admit that at the beginning of the year I was excited to turn 18 for a bevy of other reasons. Being considered a legal adult heralds my imminent graduation from high school. But being at the voting age? It was not exactly at the top of the list of things to be excited about.
With most of my mind focused on college admissions and simply surviving high school, it was quite easy to forget about everything that came with turning the big 1-8. As I was cooped up at home, and in-between my online classes, however, I found myself checking the news constantly. This time has offered me an opportunity for greater self-reflection and more time to stay abreast of current world events. Such as the ongoing campaign for the presidency over in the U.S.
The upcoming U.S. presidential election offers us a window into why it is so important young people vote and why that begins with registration. According to the U.S. Election Project, voters over the age of 60 have a turnout rate of 71 percent. Voters aged 18 to 29? Only 43 percent. The idea that so many people, who are in the prime periods of their lives, periods that will be greatly affected by the election, do not make their voices heard through the ballot box is quite alarming.
Low youth voter turnout is thankfully less of an issue in the Philippines. During the 2019 Philippine midterm elections, 31 percent of all registered voters were aged 18 to 30. That is far more impressive than the meager figures posted in the U.S.
That does not mean, however, that all is well and good with regards to youth voting in the Philippines. A study by Far Eastern University (FEU) entitled “Does Gen Z Care?” found that Gen Z voters, defined as aged 17 to 24 (hey, that includes me), were “not yet very much inclined to participate in political and civic affairs.” Furthermore, many were “undecided when it comes to the most controversial issues of the day.”
The problem isn’t simply registering to vote. It is also about being able to vote with adequate awareness and information about the issues so as to make an informed decision. Voter education.
My vote may only be one among millions in 2022, but it is a vote that is counted nevertheless. That is why I am eager to not merely register and vote but to ensure that my vote is based on the best information we have. My vote, our vote, matters. Internationally, governments’ handling of the Covid-19 pandemic illustrates how whom we decide to put in office has the ability to lead to feast or to famine. My path to casting my ballot has already started, by paying attention to our current and even future leaders.
Kirk Tinga is a senior high school student.