What You Think

Millennials don’t want to vote. Really? — Howard Lee

OCTOBER 6 — There has been recent chatter that millennials may choose not to vote in the next general election. Is this really the case, and why?

We must debunk this myth that millennials as a generation, have lost interest and confidence in voting and will choose not to vote. To start with, one needs only to witness a voters’ registration drive in night markets and shopping malls to realise that a vast majority of those voluntarily registering to vote are millennials.

Over the last 3 months, DAP Perak has conducted 35 public rallies and near to a hundred coffee-shop discussions, at every event on average 40 Malaysians sign up as voters. In one weekend last month, 3500 Johoreans voluntarily participated in a DAP-initiated electoral roll inquiry drive. Many millennials are eager to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens. A vast majority of these are also millennials.

Just this week, two millennials joined my constituency volunteer team (which is ninety per cent millennial to start with).

My observations suggests the contrary, that there will be a significant proportion of millennials who will continue to be change agents in Malaysia through varying levels of contributions. Voting is the bare minimum.

Unfair generalisation

Statements like “millennials hate race politics and will abstain from voting” are no different from saying “Chinese hate race politics and will abstain from voting”. This presupposes that everyone who are in that category share the same conviction.

The reasons given for millennials not voting vary from political fatigue to being uninspired by the options available. I would argue that such sentiment is not unique to millennials. It is baseless and unfair to label all millennials as being against voting.

It is only recently that certain quarters are trying to paint the existence of a so-called “protest movement” that is calling on others to abstain to vote.

It’s not something new

Serving in the frontline of Malaysian politics, I have seen pessimistic sentiments, it is by no means exclusive to millennials. I have seen various forms of this sentiment among various age groups during the last two election cycles.

In 2008, some people abstained from voting for fear of persecution. In 2013, where I, along with many other millennials were elected into public office, there was a similar narrative of vote abstention based on loss of confidence towards the Election Commission. Yet, voter turnout increased from 2008 to 2013, with the opposition pact garnering a markedly increased vote share.

The only generalisation I dare about millennials, is that each and every single one of us are different.

Being the generation that has the best connectivity and access to information to the others due to the advent of the internet, millennials are most empowered to think for ourselves, and decide for ourselves what actions to take.

There are some millennials who perceive their disenfranchisement by the status quo system as a reason not to vote. But there is also a vast number of millennials who are hungry for change and are actively contributing towards that with their hearts and their actions.

In short, it is absurd, inaccurate and prejudiced to assume that millennials will abstain from voting. I’d like to quote Tomi Lahren whose views I stand in polar opposition of, “I’m a Millennial, so I don’t like labels.”

Let’s not be sidetracked and misdirected that all millennials are apathetic, or unaware of the weight of their rights and responsibilities to vote.

* Howard Lee Chuan How is Pasir Pinji state assemblyman.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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