First time voters plan to impact polls next week

Sophie Chehab, Assistant Arts&Style Editor

Turning 18 comes with a plethora of rights and responsibilities, and many students who have recently come of age are exploring their new role in government. As Election Day looms closer, young adults are making sure they have a place at the polls.

Senior McKenzie Ahmadi, who turned 18 in October, recently registered to vote.

“My government teacher helped everyone who’s old enough to register,” Ahmadi said. “He handed out the forms we needed and made sure we knew what to do.”

Many students are engaged in the election, regardless of their age.

Senior Sarah LeMasters is still underage, but she plans on voting in the 2020 presidential election.

“[I find] democracy and the candidates interesting, so I watch the debates and news coverage,” LeMasters said. “The registration process seems hard, but I’m looking forward to having a say in government.”

Senior Kendree Roberts agrees, and is looking forward to his voting opportunity. Many students focus on presidential elections, while disregarding congressional and local ones.

“I think it’s important to be involved in government, so I plan on voting in every election,” Roberts said. “Smaller elections are usually overlooked, but I believe every aspect of government is crucial and voters need to pay attention.”

In addition, the government teachers are excited for their students to get a firsthand experience and enjoy listening to their opinions about the election process. AP Government teacher Matt Miles hopes to see his students at the polls.
“The cool part about American democracy is that their vote counts just as much as mine does,” Miles said.

However, many adults worry about ignorant voters affecting the outcome of the election.  

“Uneducated voters worry me, as well as people who don’t understand the system. Kids might support a candidate because they’re popular without looking more into their platform,” Miles said. Students are encouraged to watch debates and volunteer for campaigns to combat uninformed voting.

According to the 2012 Census, only 30 percent of 18-25 year-olds voted, which is something educators are working to change.  

In most states, including Virginia, public school students are required to take a government class before graduating high school. This law helps ensure that all voters are educated about our democracy.

“We discuss the election throughout the first quarter, it’s a great year to teach government,” Miles said. “We reference the debates in class and try to tie in the policies being discussed. It makes the election more relevant and understandable to the kids.”

Government teacher Joe Clement recently organized a debate open to the whole school, in which representatives from all five campaigns participated. Issues such as taxation, the appointing of Supreme Court justices and terrorism were discussed.

“Politicians tend not to listen to young voters because there are so few of them,” Clement said. “If more of them vote, the issues that pertain to them will be addressed.”

Many young adults are casting their vote based on information from social media and other biased sources.

“I urge my students to stay away from social media during the election,” Clement said. “I want them to stay away from bias and read about the candidate’s ideas and actions instead.”

There’s a lot at stake in this election, and adults hope young voters are educated and knowledgeable before they step into the voting booth.