By: Danielle Winterhalter

For young people in San Francisco, political discussions and activist opinions aren’t rare. They can be so prevalent in fact, we easily forget that we live in a little bubble of cultural exposure, tech and booming industry.

But a recent study from the PEW Research Center bursts our preconceived political bubble – PEW discovered that voter registration for people between the ages of 18-29 is actually down 11% compared to 2008 levels and is currently at a 16 year low.

In the 2008 presidential election, the youth vote was an incredible force. The Millennial generation turned out in record numbers and changed the course of the election, sparking national attention and well-deserved acclaim for the 51% of people between the ages of 18-29 who turned out to vote.

But this year, there are fewer ‘Rock-the-Vote’ t-shirts, and Obama’s “HOPE” posters are no longer displayed in every storefront. Instead, the realities of a democracy – the bureaucracy, partisan divisions and delayed gratification for crucial politics – have stunted the growth of the politically engaged Millennial.

Did we only vote because celebrities sang about Obama and the campaign had sexy shwag? Did we only turn out at the polls to wear around the sticker that said, “I voted for CHANGE” or “OBAMA2008”? Are we – the generation that was perceived as legendary four years ago – only followers of a fleeting trend?

I don’t think so – I think that as modern young voters, we came to our political consciousness in the most divisive period in political history, and stalled bills, partisan games and continuously negative rhetoric from both sides of the aisle has stunted our formally vivacious political appetite.

Politics can be ugly. Being informed takes time and hearing the same arguments and advertisements is exhausting – but what is worse is being powerless. Change is slow and hope is hard – but it will come if we work for it and stay engaged. The easiest way to start is by voting.

Already registered to vote? Thank you. What about your local friends or the people you know throughout the country? Register your friends, register your roommates, register your frenemies, ex-boyfriends, facebook friends, twitter followers & colleagues. In CaliforniaOregon and New York you can register to vote online. But registration deadlines approaching and we really are running out of time.

If you care about student loans, when our troops come home, healthcare, your local fire department, government budgets, zoning regulations for your favorite club, local jobs, what goes in your food or campaign spending – this election matters to you.

Our generation was a force in 2008, and as the youngest group of voters, we have the most to lose this November. I believe that we are more than a demographic who voted four years ago because Eva Longoria told us to – I believe that we voted because we had hope, and as hard as it is to muster, I believe that we can find that hope, again.

Give yourself, your friends and your family a voice – register to vote & participate this November.