Kim Wyman is a perfect voter.
She cast a ballot in almost every election she could since she turned 18 and registered.
More than 35 years later, Washington’s secretary of state was trying to convince a room full of sleepy community college students that they should do the same.
Wyman is taking two days to tour through Eastern Washington and visit with students. She stopped to talk to about 70 students in Gary Bullert’s American Government class.
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And with less than a week to register for the November election, Wyman and Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton brought a stack of registration forms, buttons and pens.
The students sitting in the class are among the age group that’s least likely to register. About 60 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds were registered in 2016.
That group also is the least likely to vote.
In the last presidential election, about a third of the group’s registered voters turned out, and that number shrinks during local and county election years.
These are not new trends, Wyman said. The youngest voters are usually the least represented when it comes to the polls.
“The irony is they’re at the point where they have the most freedom and the most responsibility they ever had, they’re legally adults, and they’re the ones that participate the least,” she said.
The irony is they’re at the point where they have the most freedom and the most responsibility they ever had, they’re legally adults, and ironically they’re the ones that participate the least.
Kim Wyman, Secretary of State
Much of the time, it’s an issue or a candidate that draws people to the polls.
“You saw a little bit of a spike in 2008 and 2012; I think that was because of Barack Obama, and he connected really well with young voters,” she said. “People on this side of elections for the last 25 years, have spent a lot of time trying to get the turn out number up and lower barriers.”
Now anyone looking to vote can go online, submit a form by mail or walk into their county elections office. Information about all of the options are available at the Secretary of State website or by contacting a county auditor’s office.
“We do a direct mail piece to every high school senior as they turn 18,” Wyman said.
While the efforts are well-meaning, they don’t seem to affect the patterns — more people vote during presidential elections, with a slight uptick during mid-term elections.
Washington’s participation tracks ahead of other states, however, with the amount of college-aged students participating.
Part of Wyman’s and Beaton’s efforts Tuesday morning was to emphasize to students the importance of becoming aware of local issues. From schools to roads to ambulance response times, local government oversees them.
Part of my job, is not only to get them to vote ... it’s to get them to become informed voters.
Gary Bullert, CBC professor
For Bullert — who has spent the past 25 years teaching government classes to Running Start and traditional college students — he wants to educate people about the system.
“Part of my job, is not only to get them to vote ... it’s to get them to become informed voters,” he said.
Wyman left the class with a simple message.
If they don’t vote, they are ceding their say to their parents, grandparents and the others who do vote.
“Don’t worry, because I vote every time,” she told the class. “So as long as you believe everything that I believe and think everything that I think, I’ve got your back.
“But if you don’t, then you’ve just given your power to me.”