Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. “I think we’ve devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we’ve become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities,” says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. “We can’t take that lightly,” says Cranston. It’s a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Bryan Cranston’s new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.
Bryan Cranston: Ready? All right, this is the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. Section One: ‘The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.’
I think that’s really great. And this was only passed in 197—1971! I was 15 years old in 1971. I was close to that [minimum voting] age. I hope it’s an empowerment. I was disappointed, I must say, in the last election, whichever person you may choose to be your elected official.
I think that’s a societal thing. I think we’ve devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we’ve become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities.
And I think we need to reinforce that to realize we’re damn lucky to be able to be citizens of a country that allows free and independent—when working at its best—free and independent elections. And we can’t take that lightly. And I hope that we realize just how important it is and support the privilege to be able to say you voted in an election. And I hope you do. Thank you.