November 8, 2018
How Would Prep Vote?
An essential element of the american experience is the ability to vote: to shape the future of one’s country and to express individual opinion. A fundamental idea to this system in America is that everyone’s opinion is heard, however the current system leaves out a significant portion of the population. 10% of the United State’s population is comprised of teenagers who form strong opinions on current political topics. This fraction should not be discounted as high school students tend to have more exclusive and original ideas that anyone else.
Among many local controversies, students at Prep are driven by the recent budget cuts in the Seattle Public Schools. “The arts are an essential part of an education”, said Fiona Killalea 20’. “I can’t imagine going to a school without a chance to paint, act or film.” Students at Prep are accustomed to very unique and specialized classes which help to diversify their learning experience. Passion on the topic of education hits close to home for those who are in the most formative years of their schooling. Though students at Prep may have more privileged opportunities, this does not stop them from advocating for the opportunities of others. Voting seems to be the only way in which many students under eighteen believe they can have the biggest impact. Killalea 20’ admiantely said, “If I were to vote, I would be a lot more motivated to advocate for the quality of my own education.”
More broadly, homelessness is seen and felt by many around the Seattle Prep community. “I can’t buss home from school without seeing dozens of homeless people”, said Solei Perrin 20’. “It really has made me understand how fortunate I really am.” Voting for more affordable healthcare and housing programs is paramount in the struggle against homelessness and Prep students have some ideas. “I would vote right now if I could,” said Rowan Davis 21’. “I would push for the creation of more ‘tiny homes’ as well as inexpensive medical insurance”. The service Prep does within the local community motivates students to become more involved in the homelessness crisis. Service places a bandaid over the issue, but voting has the potential to fix a problem entirely. “I guess I most driven by the thought of an entire family sleeping under a bridge and going hungry”, said Davis. “If I can do anything in my power to change that, I would vote.”
Recently, students as young as eleven and as old as twenty two have taken their case all the way to the Supreme Court. Their case- one’s civil rights are violated by the action and inaction of the United States’ Government on the topic of climate change. These students, some of which are in highschool, are standing up for what they believe in at the federal level. Legally, youth are not supposed to have a voice in government, however this case has gone to show that teens really can make a difference in the political climate of America. “That’s about all you can do if you can’t vote,” said Henry Pehl 20’ when discussing the case. “These young people are arguing from a very different place that adults cannot fully appreciate, as the effects of climate change will be felt by young people in the future. “It’s harder for adults to accept”, stated Pehl. “How can you be passionate about something that won’t impact you as much?”. The major theme among Prep students is the idea to reinstate Obama era climate policies. However, a large setback to the control of carbon dioxide emissions seems to be over the phrase “American friendly”. “At some point we have to realize what really is valuable to this country”, said Pehl. “Whether that means we cut back on fossil fuel consumption or destroy fewer forests, something has to change”.
It is clear the student body at Seattle Prep is passionate. Passionate about change. Passionate about the social justice. Passionate about the future. Not only would the power of voting enable students to legally voice their opinions, but it would allow them to formulate new ideas too. “So much of what I believe comes from my parents”, said Charles Gwynn 20’. “With the new power and responsibility of voting, I feel that I might have different opinions of my own. And that excites me.”
Should Our Opinions Matter?
Should Our Opinions Matter?
This year’s midterm elections have many voters divided, and while the President isn’t elected during midterms, there are many congressional seats being battled over and several important local initiatives from the environment to soda tax being determined. This leaves many wondering how do people choose who and what to vote for?
This is even true at Prep, and while most students can’t vote, most do have a wide range of opinions. Whether it’s from families or annoying popup ads on YouTube. Every issue has the yes’s and no’s, and all students convinced that they are on the “right side”. With all of this passion and discussion there are two incredible facts, only 40% of Americans vote in midterm elections and no matter how much we talk about politics the voting age is 18.
Prep Government teachers Ms. Healy and Ms. Slack, shared their perspectives on how they thought elections and campaigning would change if the voting age was lowered.
Healy said “I actually do think it would have an impact because people who are younger tend to be more liberal, and in general, if the voter turnout was higher than typical we might get a broader range. Studies have shown that more older people vote.”
If more high schoolers were allowed to vote it would make a more inclusive democracy. This also relates to the issue of how many high schoolers are influenced politically via many different forms of media, Slack thought that,
“…young people don’t vote because they don’t feel like voting matters in their day to day life, and they don’t get very much information, and part of it depends on how much they know. We are so inundated with so many forms of media including social media that often it’s difficult to weed through the stories about what celebrities are doing instead of reading about political policies and what is going on with our government.”
This way of informing teenagers about politics with social media, could be a path to engaging an impressionable younger generation. This would most likely be one of the many changes that would occur if high schoolers were allowed to vote, social media advertisements could become the main form of advertising and sharing of political information.
If high schoolers were given more information about what’s going on in our government, and more reasons and opportunities to engage, then it makes sense to include a whole new group of diverse voters.
Freshman John Calvert agreed that, “You’d see a rise of politics in schools, with campaign posters popping in schools. Also, I think you’d specifically see more politicians target high schoolers, as they are the most susceptible voters.”
Further, if students were supported by their family and encouraged by the school to investigate issues, attend rallies and hear candidates speak, with ads and info available on social media it seems reasonable to expect higher voter turnout. If high schoolers were allowed to vote it would also cause politicians to have new legislations and polices be created relating to school funding, gun control, and other issues more closely related to younger generations. This foresight is most likely accurate, but only time will tell as little by little people begin to think about what impact high schoolers could have on the political world and public policy.
Your Voice, Your Vote
Voting is vital to democracy. Without voting in the U.S., who knows would be elected? During the vital 2016 Presidential elections, only 58% of eligible young people (from ages 18-29 years old) voted and according to PBS, this was the highest percentage in an election in the modern era. This is a problem, because everyone should have an opinion about politics, and a way to get one’s voice heard is through voting for the candidates one supports.
One common reason why people do not vote, is the conception that their vote will be drowned out by the millions of other voters. This statement is true to a point. A single vote may not seem to matter, but when thousands of similarly opinionated people’s votes add up it does matter.
“If people do not vote then it really puts in the question of the legitimacy of our government,” said AP Government teacher, Ms. Healy.
Voting is a key component to democracy because it allows citizens to tell politicians and the government what the people want. Also, if hundreds of thousands of similarly opinionated people do not vote, then it is guaranteed that the candidate they were supporting will not get elected. An example, of the closeness in elections was during the 2000 presidential election. Florida’s vital 23 electoral seats during election decided by only 500 people (2,912,760 for George W. Bush and 2,912,253 for Albert Gore).
Though the Presidential elections may seem to be the most important election cycle, the Congressional Midterm elections, are also very important, but it is one of the least voted election cycles. In 2014, only 16% of young people voted in the midterms, and throughout US history, the highest young voter turnout was only 21% in 1998 according the Washington Post.
The Congressional Midterms are one of the most important elections because voters elect 1/3 of all senators and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives. These elections can change the majority of the House of Representatives and Senate. If a party gains majority of Congress, then they can easily pass new legislation, gain veto power over new bills, and hold subpoena power.
Overall it is important to vote in all elections, as according the AP Government teacher Ms. Slack, “Voting is a powerful tool to send to elected officials, so if you vote, elected officials are going to listen to you more.”
Alleged Voter Suppression Runs Rampant Leading up to Midterm Elections
Since the founding of America groups of people have been barred from voting based on race, gender, wealth, and literacy among others. This pattern seemingly has not changed in America leading up to the 2018 Midterm Elections, with accusations of voter suppression front and center.
Republican officials have recently been hounded with accusations of preventing minorities, most predominantly African Americans, from voting in the midterms. These officials are allegedly doing this by adding and cracking down on certain laws making it more difficult for specific populations to vote.
For example, in Georgia the historic race for governor is tight between Democrat Stacey Abrams who could potentially be the first African-American woman to be the governor of Georgia, and Republican Brian Kemp. In Georgia over 53,000 voter registrations have been put on hold because their voter registration did not exactly match up to other forms of ID. These mismatches have predominantly come in forms of misspellings, missed hyphens, and having a nickname on one form of ID and full name on another. With only a few days before the registration deadline, many voters feared they would be barred from voting.
These voter registration laws seemingly affect minority voters the most. Georgia’s population is 32% black, however, 70% of those with registrations on hold are black. This is an overwhelming majority that raises eyebrows at the intentions of those making and enforcing these laws.
Leigh Jensen ’20 commented on the issue saying, “I definitely think they are doing this because it’s one thing to have one case happen where people are kept from voting but because this is multiple cases it’s not just a coincidence.” She says it is not only about their opposing votes but a whole basis on racism and suppression.
GOP officials claim to be fighting against voter fraud, Voter fraud is interference with the process of an election in any form from increasing the vote to favor a candidate to decreasing the vote of the rival candidate. However, voter fraud is not as big of an issue in America as many people seem to think. Arizona State University conducted two studies about voter fraud in 2012 and 2016. The first study revealed 10 cases of voter fraud among billions of votes in the country from 2000-2012. When again conducted, zero cases of voter fraud were found between 2012 and 2016.
Many believe GOP officials simply want to suppress votes that they believe will not benefit them. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Emory University Professor Carrol Stone said, “An aging, nearly 90 percent white GOP cannot carry its candidates to electoral victory on a platform that revels in the consequences of unvarnished racism.”