By Kaylyn Blosser
“I don’t think a fresh perspective will hurt anyone.”
Saira Blair of West Virginia just became the youngest elected politician in America – at 18-years-old. While most freshmen are adjusting to a life of questionable dining hall food and community showers away from mom and dad, Blair ran her campaign out of her college dorm room. Elected to West Virginia’s House of Delegates and a self-proclaimed constitutional conservative, she defeated 44-year-old trial attorney Layne Diehl.
Blair did not think her age would negatively affect the outcome of the election nor does she think her age will affect her ability as a legislator. “The average age in the U.S. Congress is 57, and the average age in the U.S. Senate is 62,” she said. “But with all that experience, all we’ve gotten is lower jobs, more debt and less opportunity. I don’t think a fresh perspective will hurt anyone.”
Now that she is elected, Blair will work for the one thing all students worry about as graduation looms nearer – jobs. “I’ve watched too many kids my age have to leave the state because they can’t find a good-paying job.”
As young voters, we should care about her success. Her election shows the country that young voters do care about politics. It shows that we do have an active and powerful voice in the community.
LSU Political Communication Junior Kylie Shae Keyser said she first heard about Blair while watching the 2014 Midterm election results. “I was refreshing Twitter and saw a blurb about it,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool [that Blair was elected]. It proves that anyone can represent us. It doesn’t matter what their age is or where they are from; they can represent us as American people.”
However, it is widely known that our generation does not actively participate in politics. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reports just 26.1% of Louisiana’s eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2010 midterm election. Yet, 60% of that same population was registered to vote.
Maybe those voters were at school away from their voting precinct. Maybe those voters could not get an absentee ballot. Maybe those voters did not think governmental processes affect them. Maybe those voters did not think their vote would count. But if we have learned anything from Saira Blair it’s this: when young voters do participate in government, other generations listen.