It’s Time to Get Serious. Vote!

Joel Bellman

“Elections have consequences,” a friend of mine likes to say.

“Well, duh,” I like to say.

After the recent Brett Kavanaugh debacle—as if Donald Trump’s upset in 2016 wasn’t enough—you’d think we would have gotten the memo, but no. Statewide, at this writing, one out of four eligible voters still haven’t registered; we’re doing a little better in LA County, where about one in five eligible voters has yet to register.

The deadline to register to vote is October 22; visit this LA County Registrar page to check your voter status and register if you need to. Once you’ve taken care of that, watch your mailbox for ballot materials—or go online here to find your polling place and personal sample ballot, and here to view the voter information guide on statewide ballot measures.

If you’re one of those people who prefers to vote by mail (I am not, I like the human contact), you’ve got another week before the October 30 deadline to apply here for your VBM ballot.

And here’s a way-cool new option I just discovered: sign up here for an e-ballot that the LA County Registrar automatically emails to you 30 or 40 days ahead of each upcoming election. You get it faster, it doesn’t kill any trees, and you can access it on all your devices.

It’s been true for years that voter registration and participation rates are worst among the young, millennials and Gen Y. But it’s not just this generation; it’s young people, period: As this chart shows, over the past 30 years, the older you are, the more you vote.
In 2016, “Vice News” did a nice roundup of all the past failed efforts to turn out the youth vote.

After the Constitution was amended in 1971 to give 18-year-olds the right to vote, there was talk of a “McGovern youth vote” of some 11 million newly eligible 18-21-year-old voters that was supposed to help put the liberal North Dakota senator over the top. Louis Harris of the Harris Poll was rightly skeptical of that claim, and with good reason. Of the under-30s who even bothered to register and vote, they broke for Richard Nixon 52-48, thanks to a successful youth pitch like this vintage Nixon TV spot that touched all the bases, including Vietnam, the draft, the vote, diplomacy over war, saving the environment, even drug treatment programs.

So, the problem isn’t just “kids today”—we Boomers, too, once voted in lower numbers than our elders. And as this 2017 Pew Research Center study found, that “generation gap” first identified in the late 1960s has only widened, with younger Gen X and Millennials moving further Left, and the older Boomers and pre-Boomer Silent Generation cohorts moving further Right.

A new youth-vote spot from Knock the Vote (apparently a rebranding of the ‘90s-vintage Rock the Vote music-industry effort) pulls no punches: selfish, Right-wing “olds” are stealing the future from the “young” who would rather text, post, flake, or ghost than cast a ballot. As a Boomer, a progressive, and a lifelong voter from age 18 on, I find the ageism and stereotyping distasteful, but I’m not the target audience; my children are.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’ve got less than three weeks to rescue the country. If, after all that we’ve been through, after all that they’ve seen—Muslim travel bans, trade wars, tax cuts for the rich, gutting of environmental regulations, dog-whistles to racists and bigots, secret payoffs to Playmates and porn stars, secret meetings with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 presidential election, alienating our closest foreign allies, flirting with nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, slamming through two ultra-conservative Supreme Court appointments (one that should rightfully have been Obama’s)—if after all that, voters leave Republicans fully in charge of Congress and cement total Right-wing domination of the federal government, than it will be fully and completely on us.

So, you really want to make a difference? Be the change you seek? Be the person that you’re waiting for? Impose some consequences of your own? Put away the pussy hats, t-shirts, and signs; take a break from re-posting and re-tweeting the latest partisan memes that your friends already agree with; and if you’re not already volunteering with a campaign, at least get ready to make some real noise at the polling place on Tuesday, November 6, that will be too loud even for Washington to ignore.


Joel Bellman

Joel Bellman worked in journalism and local government in Los Angeles for 35 years. He now teaches and writes on politics and pop culture. He can be contacted at

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