Underage Americans seek to sway elections


Siena Juhlin

After school a group of democrat students gathers in a small classroom and sit in desks. Murmurs fill the room as they start to discuss a current topic; politics. Words are thrown around and small arguments start to arise. Words such as “equality,” “taxes,”  “liar” and even “stupid” arise.

But, before these opinionated conversations really take off, Gregory Irwin, Advanced Placement (AP) world teacher and the leader for Young Democrats, stops them. Irwin then begins to explain new information about the upcoming election which spurs further conversation among the students.

With the election coming in fewer than two weeks, many people, even students, have become more aware of political issues. Although most students can’t vote yet, they are still forming strong opinions about this year’s presidential election. Some students have strong political opinions so, these students are participating in campaign events and sharing their ideas. High schoolers sometimes even attend the clubs the school offers like the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans. There, they can discuss their opinions, both liberal and conservative, freely.

“I am very opinionated, and it’s hard not to offend anyone when talking about politics,” sophomore and member of Young Democrats Maya Bell said. “By being in Young Dems, it allows me to talk to other people without worrying too much about what they think.”

Although being in Young Democrats or Young Republicans is one way for students to voice opinions and get involved with the upcoming election, there are other ways students are immersing themselves into politics without having a vote.

“Right now a lot of activism is volunteering with political candidates or volunteering with causes you believe in,” Irwin said.“I think that’s the strongest way one has a vote.”

By volunteering, students get hands’ on experience. They get more of an idea of what’s going on politically in their community. Although RBHS does not offer any programs that allow students to participate in political events and programs, it’s easy for a student to obtain information about this online.

Other than volunteering and joining political clubs, some students get involved by understanding what’s going on by watching the news, debates and reading articles.

“The easiest way to get involved without having a vote is to simply follow the news. I watch the news about every day to find out what’s going on in the world,” junior and member of Young republicans Brandon Egerdeen said.  “I try to look at multiple news sources since some tend to be biased towards one party, so I think it’s good to truly understand both sides of the issue.”

The Rock surveyed 201 students, 10 percent of the student body
The Rock surveyed 201 students, 10 percent of the student body

Although most people watch the news and read articles, some high schoolers are taking it a step further by getting involved without a vote because it will affect the community in the future.

“I think it [youth involvement] totally impacts the outside world. The thing is youth involvement is critical for the further advancement of key american ideals,” Egerdeen said. “When youth don’t get involved and figure out where they stand politically, they probably won’t be smart with their voting decisions.”

As Egerdeen said, the U.S. government’s future is dependent on its youth. The thoughts and ideas of political issues influence the youth, which ultimately determines the future in government. The chair member of the Boone County Republican Central Committee, Mike Zweifel also believes in this theory.

“I want to see students succeed if they are involved with a campaign. I want students to come away from their campaign experiences with more knowledge about the political process because they later affect our government,” Zweifel said. “I think the best way to learn about campaigns and the political process is to be involved with it.”

It’s important that the younger generation is informed about politics before they actually have a say in the government because then they know more about the topic like Zweifel said. By staying active and understanding where the young individual stands politically, there is a better future for the U.S. government.

Irwin believes not only is the future of the government a reason students get involved, but also, it’s hard for youth to have strong opinions about politics and not be able to do anything because they don’t have a vote.

“Students feel alienated that they don’t have control over their government and that might lead to more radical decisions,” Irwin said.

Students feel less estranged from decisions within the government by getting involved with clubs, social media and volunteer work.

“When I talk to other people about my political opinions, I feel like I’m kind of contributing to society even if I don’t have a vote,” Bell said.

Bell said youth involvement in politics allows for a better future in government, and offers students a chance to feel like a part of the elections without actually having a vote. By staying updated on the campaigns, volunteering and joining school clubs, students can immerse themselves in politics without even having a vote.

“I absolutely think they should lower the voting age,” Irwin said. “If we’re gonna put you behind a 2,000 pound automobile, then you should have the ability to vote. But, until high school students can vote, they should always try to get involved politically.”

Have you gotten active this election? Leave a comment below.