The Youth Vote: Seniors Weigh-In on Politics

The Youth Vote: Seniors Weigh-In on Politics

Rebekah Lindsay, News Editor

    Voter turnout reached a record high this year. In line with the trend, impassioned youth—inspired by a summer of social movements—flocked to the polls (and their mailboxes) in exceptionally higher numbers than previous presidential elections. 

    AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher Saskia Mizushima fondly recalls her first presidential voting experience in the year 2000—Bush v. Gore. “I remember being really excited to vote for the president, but more than anything I have such a clear memory of just sitting up all night watching television,” said Mizushima.  

    The 2000 election sparked Mizushima’s interest in politics. As a government teacher, one of her main goals is to help her students understand the meaning of a democratic republic. “You are part of the government, right? It’s not something that’s happening to you; it’s something that you are a part of and that we are the only ones really that can make change,” said Mizushima. 

    However, Mizushima acknowledges the staggeringly low youth turnout statistics. In 2016, Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimated only 45-48 percent of eligible youth constituents voted. This percentage is alarmingly unlike the overall 2016 turnout, 60.1 percent. 

    Mizushima attributes the lack of enthusiasm amongst young people, in part, to a pattern of politicians ignoring the concerns of youth voters. “It’s a vicious cycle. A lot of politicians are not addressing the concerns of students of young Americans. And so then. Young people don’t vote because they don’t feel like their needs are being met. But then because they don’t vote and politicians want to get reelected,” said Mizushima.

    Yet the 2020 election marked an uprise in youth engagement. Tufts University’s CIRCLE reported a 53-56 percent youth turnout in this year’s election. Mizushima has noticed the turning tides in new requirements. “Washington State has recently passed a lot of laws, allowing for pre-registration of voters and requiring that social studies classes give time for students to be able to register to vote and so I definitely see a lot of possibility,” said Mizushima.

    North Creek Seniors also see possibilities on the horizon. Senior Kane Carmical registered to vote at a BLM protest this summer. He said the government’s handling of the coronavirus and the death of George Floyd inspired his vote. “I believe it’s unacceptable for an acting government to watch people die and virtually do nothing,” said Carmical.

    Senior Jackson Cook shared similar sentiments to Carmical. “I voted for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for George Floyd, for the hundreds of thousands of people that have been killed by the police, by the justice system, or by the lack thereof. I voted for the safety of my planet and its people. The world is dying and we are along with it. I just want to see some change,” said Cook.

    Cook and Carmical, who both turned 18 in October, voted early and by mail. “I think voting by mail is amazing and really extends the power of voting to thousands if not millions of people whose voices would not have been heard without it,” said Cook. 

    Senior Bella Corsaro, who also had the opportunity to vote in the 2020 election expressed similar positive feelings about mail-in ballots. “I loved voting by mail. I was able to take my time to really carefully research the candidates while I had my ballot right in front of me. It was great,” said Corsaro.

    Although some concerns have been raised about the validity of mail-in voting. None of these seniors agreed with the claims. “I have also looked deeply into the credibility of mail-in ballots. Perfectly fine. Little to no voter fraud and if there was any it came from both sides,” said Cook.