Why you should care

Because this generation is now the largest eligible voting bloc in the nation and could help swing some key issues.


Matt Singer is the executive director of Bus Federation, a nonprofit behind the American Voter Guide that believes young people drive most big changes in politics, business and society.

This year’s election race could go down as the wildest one in U.S. history. But amid the spectacle, it can be easy to lose sight of what this election is about: real choices for voters, with big implications on the issues we care about.

Given the millennial generation is now the largest eligible voting bloc in the nation, many of us will be helping to decide whether to increase the minimum wage, tax big corporations to pay for schools and health care, or legalize marijuana in more states. We will be picking candidates who could make pivotal choices about immigration laws, the higher education system and access to abortion services. Here are just some of the issues young voters will help decide this year that aren’t focused on the presidential race.

#BlackLivesMatter Up and Down the Ballot

Most young Americans believe #BlackLivesMatter, but our criminal justice system still tends to over-punish petty offenses by Black and brown people while — some argue — turning a blind eye to violence perpetrated by law enforcement. Earlier this year, prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland lost re-election due, in part, to local organizing led by Black youth. Many county prosecutors and sheriffs will be on the ballot next week, with especially close races projected in Phoenix, Columbus, Houston and Florida’s Hillsborough County.

In California, voters will decide Proposition 57 to reform parole and juvenile justice. In Oklahoma, voters will face Question 780, which will reclassify some drug and property crimes as misdemeanors, and Question 781, which will expand funding for mental health and substance abuse programs.

Building a Sane Drug Policy

Just five years ago, marijuana was illegal in every state. Today, powered by ballot measures supported overwhelmingly by young voters, marijuana has been fully legalized in four states and the District of Columbia. Some states are even moving to expunge past convictions. Now, nine states are considering ballot measures on marijuana, including five looking at full legalization. Since these are ballot measures, voters — not politicians — decide the law.

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A marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon.

Source Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Bernie’s Revolution on the Ballot

In states across the country, voters will decide policy ideas that Sen. Bernie Sanders brought to national attention this year. From a higher minimum wage to universal single-payer health care to raising taxes on wealthy people and large corporations to campaign finance and election reform, many voters will have the chance to directly enact several of Bernie’s policies into law at the state level. Elsewhere, all voters will have clear choices on topics such as free college, raising taxes on the wealthy and reforming our immigration policies.

Avoiding Getting Warmer

More than any other generation, today’s young people will need to deal with the effects of climate change. In three states, voters will decide the fate of clean energy measures on the ballot: Florida, Nevada and Washington. And, up and down the ballot, voters will consider candidates with varying stances on clean energy.

Making Our Own Health Decisions

Supreme Court decisions may afford some protections for abortion services and LGBTQ nondiscrimination, but the reality is that these fights are not yet settled. Abortion and contraception access is still determined in a big way by our elected officials and continues to be a hot topic with proposals to defund Planned Parenthood. Several states and cities have moved recently to explicitly permit or require discrimination against LGBT Americans.

If recent polling is any indication, a record number of young voters might help decide issues like these next week. It would be an opportunity to bring the kinds of values that united so many (in record numbers) to the streets around #BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, #NoDAPL and the DREAMers movement — and advance them through another tactic: our ballots.

Research what’s on your ballot at AmericanVoterGuide.org.

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The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.