Seniors Go to the Polls

NEWS: Leo Kasmin and Javier Boersma profile East students who vote. 

Brett Kavanaugh. Immigration. Gun Control. All topics that have been subject of fierce debate in the two years since the 2016 Presidential election. After months and months of political strife, these ideological battles will come to a head on Nov. 6 when the nation votes in the 2018 midterm elections. Nowhere is this political battle more important than Colorado, where the Governor, Attorney General, all seven seats in Congress, and countless local elected positions will be up for grabs.

Historically, 18-24 year olds have turned out in exceedingly low numbers.

A key demographic will be young people, many of whom are voting for the first time in 2018. Historically, 18-24 year olds have turned out in exceedingly low numbers, especially in midterm years. But with so many hot-button issues, and celebrities such as Taylor Swift energizing young voters, the 2018 midterms may reverse this trend.

Accordingly, East seniors, some of whom are old enough to vote in 2018, seem generally energized for the midterms. Senior Nicolette Couture cited the 2016 presidential election as her main motivation to vote, explaining, “I want to vote because I want to help further our community. I want to make a difference, and one way I can do that is by voting. During the 2016 election, many people decided to not vote, and it lead us here. Many people are raising up to take on the responsibility to make a positive change for the future and to prevent what has happened during this period.”

“Many people are raising up to take on the responsibility to make a positive change for the future and to prevent what has happened during this period.”

Another senior, Taya Chapman, values voting as a way to access power in the government. She observes that, “As a high school student, I don’t have much power. Voting is the little say I have in what things should happen in the government.”

She also argues, “Other students and I should take time to understand various laws and bills passed – and what effects they have on us and our communities.” Chapman says she is still on the fence about voting until she is fully informed on the issues.

While East seniors offer an encouraging perspective, the fact remains that the majority of young people are unlikely to vote. Since 1978, the voter turnout for 18-24 year olds during midterm elections has decreased from around 25 percent to 17 percent in 2014.

One reason these numbers may have taken a dip recently is that young people have taken issue with all politicians, regardless of party.

According to a survey done by USA Today, 63 percent of young voters held a unfavorable opinion of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump; similarly, 60 percent held a similar negative view of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Young people take issue – not with a single party – but with politicians in general.

Clearly, young people take issue – not with a single party – but with politicians in general. The strict two-party system in the U.S. offers these frustrated voters very few options. Instead of voting for the candidate they see as “the lesser of two evils,” young people may be inclined simply not to vote at all.

Despite this, voting is, and has always been, the very foundation of American Democracy. In the words of Owen Dehmler-Buckley (‘17), “Voting is incredibly important in today’s democracy because it is how people’s voices are heard. Even if you feel you are underrepresented in politics the only way to make a change is to vote.”