Secretary of State promotes importance of youth vote
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 01:04
With four weeks until the West Virginia primary election, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant visited West Virginia University Monday to talk to students about the importance of voting.
In her lecture, titled "Choosing Your Future: Voting, Elections & Why it Matters in 2012," Tennant, who has served as Secretary of State since 2008, discussed the role of young people in the upcoming November 2012 elections.
"Yes, your vote does matter, but do you matter? Do 18-25-year-olds matter? You would if you voted," she said. "You could be a powerful source if you could be counted on and you would vote."
Tennant said candidates, politicians and election officials constantly talk about the youth vote, because addressing the needs and concerns of young people will help bridge the gap for many young voters.
"We should care what the student population thinks – what the young people think, but when we’re faced with 18-25-year-olds here and the powerhouse of seniors there, who are we going to give funding to? It may not be right, but it’s reality because the seniors vote; they determine who gets elected," she said. "How can you all become the powerhouse? By getting involved and voting."
The young vote could have been the difference between winning and losing for Tennant in her unsuccessful campaign for the office of Secretary of State in 2004, she said.
"I lost by 1,108 votes, but who’s counting? I’m counting," she said. "At the time there were 1,982 precincts in West Virginia, so if one more person in each precinct would have voted for me, I would have won by 800 and some votes. All of you in different precincts could be that extra vote, so your vote does count, and it does matter."
Tennant said the youth vote is becoming more and more recognized in politics, and former West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph recognized the importance of the young vote during the Vietnam War. At the time, 18-20-year-olds were drafted into the war, she said, but were not allowed to vote.
"He believed in young people – he believed if you were old enough to fight for your country and die for your country, you should be old enough to vote," Tennant said.
Randolph put up an amendment to the Constitution to change the voting age from 21 to 18, Tennant said, and the right to vote is an important one for young voters to understand.
"Imagine being sent to Vietnam at age 18, and you don’t have a say in what your country is doing, you’re just being told what to do," she said. "Jennings Randolph recognized that the vote of young people mattered."
Tennant focused her lecture on getting the young people in the audience interested in voting in the various elections this year.
She does not have a Democratic opponent for the primary May 8 but will compete against the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in the Nov. 6 election.
Tennant is a WVU alumna who was the first female Mountaineer Mascot during the 1990-91 school year.
She received her bachelor’s degree from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and later completed a master’s degree in corporate and organization communication at WVU.