Young voters stand up! Over 45 Million young Americans (ages 18-29) are eligible to vote this year, and in this exclusive video -- courtesy of youth voter empowerment organization Our Time -- Usher explains why it is important that each of us does!
+ WATCH: Usher On Voting
Uhhhhhhhshuuur is totally right: "Register to vote. Don't let someone else make the choice for you." And with that in mind, we spoke with Our Time co-founder Matthew Segal about how the organization is making it easier for people to learn about and participate in the political process. Like Usher, the 26-year-old explains how we have the power to make our President care about our issues (like one million more jobs), but only by voting:
ACT: What exactly is Our Time, and why did you start it?
MATT: Our time is a voter empowerment organization for young Americans. The language of Washington DC is often incomprehensible, so we created Our Time to translate that language in a way that is more understandable and socially relevant to our generation.
ACT: You conduct weekly polls on key issues affecting our generation. Which issues have you found are most important to young voters?
MATT: Jobs. Without a doubt. Our generation has nearly double the national average unemployment rate. Secondly, there is student debt and college affordability. Student loans were once considered an investment -- as good debt -- but the given the inflating cost of college and lack of jobs for graduates, student loans have turned from good to bad debt for many.
ACT: Are there any issues that you think candidates should focus more on?
MATT: Candidates have all done a good job of saying, “It’s very unfortunate that you’re living at home with your parents, and in debt,” but how are they going to create more jobs for young people? I want more than just apologies; I want to hear what their direct job creation strategies are.
ACT: What do you have to say to young people who are jaded by the political and voting processes, and to those who think their votes don’t count?
MATT: As I heard a congressman put it quite eloquently, “You either write the menu or you’re on the menu.” Young people will be overlooked and underrepresented in the political process unless they help write the menu. It’s not just about helping your favorite candidate win. Voter turnout is also indicative of how money is allocated and what issues candidates focus on. If more young people vote, candidates will be more likely to focus on issues that young people care about.
As for being jaded by the voting process, many young people don’t vote because voter registration tools have become costly and inefficient. Students don’t want to register in the quad; they want to do it on their laptops. Let’s meet our generation where they spend their time: online.
ACT: You’ve had some pretty big names record videos for Our Time! What was it like working with them?
MATT: We’ve worked with a lot of amazing people, from Steve Carrell, to Usher, to Nas, Jessica Alba, and Trey Songz. We know these people as entertainers, but there is a social consciousness to each of them that they haven’t become famous for, but that very much drives their way of life. Nas has very interesting points to make about racism and social injustice. We know Jessica Alba as the hot girl from movies, but she also has a company that makes eco-friendly baby products. It’s an honor to have the support of such talented people.
ACT: What are your hopes for Election Day and for the next Presidential term?
MATT: I’d like to see more voter participation on Election Day. And whoever is elected needs to place a laser focus on how young people are going to achieve financial independence in this country.