When Did Millennials Stop Taking the Constitution Test?

From time to time, I am pleased to feature a guest post from a talented up and coming writer. This week I’m thrilled to present the work of Noreen Hernandez, a gifted student in a 300- level English course I’m teaching at Northeastern Illinois University this term. I think you’ll agree we want to hear a lot more from Noreen…..


One Tuesday morning, a little more than a week ago, I was drinking my coffee and decided my digestion couldn’t handle reading about another schoolyard brawl between Rahm and Rauner. So I opened the Red Eye and started to flip directly to the Celebrity News for a little mental relaxation. Instead of checking out the reaction to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl outfit, my eyes were drawn to this headline:

I’ve Never Voted: Here’s Why,

Oh ha ha blah…I expected a sad column trying too hard to replicate the humorous genius of The Daily Show.  However, instead of satire, I read a self-serious list of reasons why 24-year-old Chicago Tribune reporter Rianne Cole has NEVER voted, or registered to vote-ever. She offered the usual pro forma list of excuses: too much hassle to register and nobody else votes. I sadly have to agree with Cole and admit, with voter turnout at 40% for the last mayoral election, she is correct in acknowledging voter apathy.

But the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners does understand the “hassle” of filling out forms, so they made it possible to register to vote online. I wondered if Cole knew she could procrastinate right up until Election Day and register at her polling place. That’s right-it’s possible to register and vote on the same day! As I continued reading the article, I became aware of a certain futility in these attempts to “get out the vote.”  Because her reason for not voting is more insidious than mere laziness.

Cole believes it is not her “civic duty” to vote.

I sighed…deep breaths…I tried solving the crossword puzzle to relax. But I couldn’t overlook the implications of Cole’s total civic apathy. The next Presidential election is historic because for the first time we, (not including Cole of course) will elect either a woman, a genuine activist, or a pouting bully. How could she sit this one out? It doesn’t matter what her politics are. If the thought that TRUMP COULD BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT doesn’t get her running to the polls to stop this madness, what will?  At this point I was wishing for an asteroid to enter our Earth’s atmosphere and just end it all quickly.

Which led me to another maddening statement in Cole’s article:

“So here I sit, going about my post-graduate life and still not registered to vote. I have plenty of time, but maybe like in my work life, I’ll do it on a deadline.”

Really Rianne? I hardly know where to begin. Do you understand why you enjoy a modern post-graduate work life with the freedom to make ignorant choices? While you think of an answer, look up Lucy Burns (1879-1966). She fought for the same right to vote that so disinterests you. She was arrested, went on a hunger strike, and tortured when authorities shoved a tube down her throat to force feed her-all this, so you can choose to take that struggle for granted.

Once Lucy’s battle was over, the next generation of women leveraged their votes to fight for Equal Rights-the ones that offer you a 21st Century opportunity to get an education and build a career. These women looked into the future, saw your potential, and battled for you. How do you repay them? By abdicating the responsibility you owe to our foremothers, yourself, and our children.

The responsibility to remember this history and show up at the ballot box in indeed your “civic duty,” and allow me to help you remember the definition from your 7th grade Constitution Test. Civic Duty is “the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force.” Like it or not Rianne, you are bound to a social force comprised of militant suffragettes and feminists of the Women’s Rights movement. Since this army of women fought, suffered, and died to provide you with the freedom of a comfortable post-graduate life, they have a right to demand your recognition.

Honor them by fulfilling your civic duty. Vote on November 8, 2016.

Noreen Hernandez has been a financial services professional for 10 years. A lifetime student with a passion for keeping her skills sharp, Noreen recently returned to university life, pursuing a degree in English Literature. She uses the power of the pen to synthesize and articulate her liberal, Catholic, and feminist viewpoints. Noreen likes a challenge. Follow her on Twitter: @Noreen_Hern