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Originally published April 3, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Page modified April 3, 2013 at 4:39 PM

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A millennial voter’s manifesto for 2013

Editorial columnist Sharon Pian Chan writes that it’s time for millennials to add politics to the regular playlist.

Times editorial columnist

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Young voters still riding high on the 2012 election victories need a reality check. The wins for Obama, same-sex marriage and marijuana mask a downturn in young voter turnout in this state.

Millennials could set the world on fire. But not until politics gets added to the regular playlist.

Between the 2008 and 2012 general election, turnout for state voters ages 18 to 24 fell from 68 to 62 percent, and from 74 to 69 percent for 25- to 34-year-olds. Turnout among people 55 and up increased.

Travis Gass, 25, voted in 2008 but sat out 2012. “I did not feel represented by either party at the time,” he said.

Gass graduated from the University of Washington in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in comparative history of ideas. He knows he can’t compete with graduates holding engineering degrees. Still, he did not expect to be working his college job as a bartender at Earl’s On The Ave, after applying for 150 other openings.

Before Gass prompts your own economic hardship tale — I have one that involves eating beans and stealing toilet paper — let’s acknowledge that his generation has been royally rolled by the recession. Millennials, the giant generational bulge between the ages of 18 and 33, have suffered the brunt of the economic downturn.

Legalizing marijuana has not fixed the job market. Unemployment for 20- to 24-year-olds was 13.1 percent in February, compared with 7.7 percent for the general U.S. population. This state mirrors the disparity. An early period of unemployment will dog the earning potential of a young person for the next 10 to 15 years.

It’s not unusual for unemployment rates for the young to be higher than that of older people — the trend holds true historically. What’s dramatically different is the government’s reaction. During the Depression, government stepped in with the New Deal to put young people to work. During the Great Recession, our state government abandoned people in college, cutting funding for higher education by 25.5 percent, $939 million, between 2007 and 2013. It let the UW raise undergraduate in-state tuition from $6,802 in 2008 to $12,385 in 2012.

Gass owes $35,000 in student loans. The average student who graduated in 2011 in Washington owed $22,244, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

Everyone under 40 is moving backward in wealth. In the past, each generation did better than the previous one. A 65-year-old in 2010 was wealthier than a 65-year-old in 1983. That’s not true for younger people. A 35-year-old in 2010 held the same amount of wealth as a 35-year-old in 1983, according to an Urban Institute March report. In that same period, 1983 to 2010, the U.S. GDP quadrupled.

As millennials would say, whatevs. This generation has adapted to economic hardship. They are Etsy crafters, free-music torrenters and happy-hour diners — as thrifty as their grandparents. In this state, 91 percent of their grandparents voted in 2012.

Millennials just need to start voting as frequently as liking a Facebook post.

In Montana last year, Steve Bullock won the governor’s seat after promising to freeze college tuition. Some Washington state legislators have proposed freezing college tuition this session. Like.

State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, let a bill die that would have expanded the State Need Grant to DREAMers, students brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Unlike.

The state Senate Government Operations committee refused to support a bill that would have allowed teens to preregister to vote when they applied for their driver’s licenses. Unlike.

Some state legislators want to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, so you’ll have health coverage until you’re 26, and even after 26 if you’re unemployed, single and poor. Like.

Tweet state Sen. @RandiLBecker, R-Eatonville, and ask why she refused to schedule a committee vote for the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill requiring insurers to cover abortions.

Ask Seattle’s mayoral and City Council candidates how they plan to build a business climate that creates jobs for young people — jobs that lead to careers instead of serving Pabst Blue Ribbon. Make them meet you at 8 p.m. at a bar at 11th and Pike.

They are already earnestly answering hard questions from 50-year-olds at 7 a.m. at breakfast in a downtown hotel.

It’s time to make them answer to you.

Sharon Pian Chan's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is On Twitter @sharonpianchan

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