The Wilson Beacon

Step up to the ballot box: Young people should be more politically active

Gwendolyn Tsai, Contributor

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In DCPS I have learned U.S. history many times. While I have learned things several times the most central idea to our history is our country’s foundation on democracy. While generally I am not extremely patriotic, I believe voting is crucial for the future of America. Considering that once in office a politician’s main job is to get reelected, they tend to cater to voters. This means they are more concerned with who will keep them in office than the general good of America. This can not continue. Our society prides itself in equality and government that serves the people, but currently our government is moving towards serving voters over the general public.

Political apathy is defined as indifference towards politics: as in not voting. Young people constantly hear about how pathetic their generation is due to lower amounts of Americans voting in recent years. In the last presidential election only 58% of America voted, while an even more pathetic 46% of people below 30 voted (data from United States Elections Project). This leads to candidates to who are more extreme in order to appeal to those who are voting. The result of this is two parties unable to compromise, or political gridlock.  These more extreme candidates can also drive away voters. When senior Erica White-Ruffin was asked if she was going to vote in the upcoming election she responded “probably not because I’m not ecstatic about any of the candidates.”

Another cause of low voting rates, especially for younger voters, is confusion of difficulty surrounding  voter registration. Although registering to vote can be time consuming it is not particularly difficult. To register one must have both proof of residency and a valid government-issued photo ID. For most students proof of residency is the most challenging element. Proof of residency can be any document that is government issued stating name and address, including utility bills and bank statements. After collecting these document students can visit either the Department of Motor Vehicles or District of Columbia Board of Elections to register in person or they can register by mailing in their forms.  

In the coming elections many juniors and seniors will be able to vote. It is extremely important that younger Americans vote in elections so that we receive fair representation in issues concerning our futures. Not voting “sets a dangerous precedent for politicians deciding to listen to your needs in the future,” according to AP U.S. government teacher Matthew Garu.  Midterm elections are also extremely important and often give citizens more voice than the presidential elections as well as being crucial in avoiding congressional gridlock.  Although it is cliche, we are the future of America and in order to have an effective government that works for the people, not just the 50% that vote, we must be educated in current events and use the political power we have been given.

It is also important for people who are unable to vote to become politically active. While not technically considered adults, politics still greatly affects them. Despite the fact it is often overlooked, people under 18 can make a change. While unable to vote, people are able to petition and protest. This is often more time consuming, along with less efficient results, but even a slow change is a change. In addition to this, as high school students, those who are unable to vote in the coming presidential election will most likely be able to vote in the next midterm election. So now is the time to start paying attention.

PHOTO COURTESY OF S.P. CASE

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Step up to the ballot box: Young people should be more politically active