18-year old voters able to impact government, need experience

Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

It’s the day you have waited for.
You payed attention to all of the candidates’ ideas.
You’re 18, and the time has finally come for you to vote in the next presidential election.
Social studies teacher Brian Mowry said the importance of voting comes with the politicians catering to the voters. He said when it deals with making college cheaper, lowering drinking age or drug laws, those areas are not given enough thought.
“The fact that voter turnout is so low for teenagers means that the issues important for them are not going to get very much attention by policy makers,” he said. “The fact that people over the age of sixty have the highest amount of voting percentage [means it] is not a coincidence then that policy makers spend most of their time dealing with prescription drug plans, keeping social security, medicare.”
The voting age was changed in the mid-1970s from 21 to 18. This decision directly correlated to the war in Vietnam and the draft.
“18-year olds were being forced against their will to go fight, yet they couldn’t vote for the people who were making those kinds of decisions,” Mowry said.
Social studies teacher Mark Klopfenstein said voting is something young people have been preparing for throughout their educational careers.
“The reason [students] have social studies and history classes is to learn about citizenship and how the system works,” he said. “It’s kind of the fulfillment of what they have been training for.”
Mowry said the difference between teenagers voting and adults voting is that teens don’t always know what is going on around them.
“You just don’t have experience,” he said. “The older you get, the more experience you will have — you’ve been in a workplace, you’ve had to pay a significant amount of taxes, you may have even had a run-in with the law. You then see the connection between the government and how it interferes with your life.”
Senior Sam Nicol said he doesn’t think enough students vote, but voting is also not something one should be forced into. He said teens are much more idealistic when it comes to voting than adults.
“They are much more likely to vote for [politicians’] ideas rather than practicality,” he said. “Also, more social issues or things that generally adults either don’t want to talk about, or don’t really think about. It is the sort of thing that people should be voting on anyway. Adults are going to be thinking of ‘what is the best thing for me,’ instead of ‘what is the best thing for everybody?’”
Mowry said many people don’t know how many issues they are voting on or the effect their votes can have.
“You’re going to have the president, then US representatives, then county commissioners and all this other stuff where teenagers end up voting right down the ticket with whether it’s an R or a D [Republican or Democratic candidate] most of the time, based on what their parents think,” he said. “Most teenagers don’t determine their own court of lease until they leave home or go off to college.”
Although some may not be very informed about issues and people they are voting on,
Nicol said voting forces students to grow up.
“You will find yourself researching, ‘Well this candidate says this,’ and you start to realize, ‘Hey, that might actually be an issue in my area,’” he said.
Nicol said when people vote, they uphold their end of a social contract in which they participate in the government.
“By voting, you show that you at least care enough to get informed and to give your opinion about it,” he said. “Other than that, it’s just an afternoon spent on something that, deep down, you hope matters, but might not.”
Mowry said there is an intellectual and emotional connection with voting and taking part in democracy.
“Just the aspect of voting makes people feel more connected to their policy makers,” he said. “It is something that all Americans share — there are few things that we all have in common now across cultures, ethnicities and religions. It’s a unifying force.”
Klopfenstein said more teenagers and people in their early twenties have voted in the past few years.
“There was a perception that it didn’t make a difference,” he said. “I think the 2000 presidential election turned that around because of how close it was. It was a reminder on just how important each vote can be.”

Students interested in registering to vote can pick up voter registration forms and information in the office.