Voice Your Vote

Students prepare for their first election.

Hannah Cole, Managing Editor

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My young heart beats quickly as I approach the polling center. My hands reach up, grasping for my parents’ assurance. A sense of maturity yet youthful exuberance occupies my mind. I take a step forward into the voting booth and into the future of my country.

My dad lifts me up and I carefully select the potential leaders of my nation. I’m convinced that each of my movements contributes to a greater purpose. I close my eyes and cast “my vote.”

With a new meaning and a sense of pride, I exit the booth. No longer clinging to my parents, I move onward to a brighter day. The words “I Voted” sit proudly upon my chest and I re-enter the realities of childhood.

United States citizens often accompany their parents to the voting booths during childhood. While restrictions keep minors from voting, parents are allowed to bring their children along for the experience. These young voters eventually grow into knowledgeable adults, prepared to take action and exercise their own right to vote. For some 18-year-old students, their voting careers will begin with the upcoming midterm elections on November 6.

The midterm elections occur between presidential elections, which are every four years. House of Representative seats, in particular, are voted on every two years, meaning the House focal points of each election season. Senate elections occur every six years with roughly a third of Senate seats decided this voting season. In addition, several consequential state and local elections occur during the midterms.

While students may only be aware of the importance of presidential elections, the results of the midterm elections ripple throughout the country.

“Midterms affect the country in a variety of ways, but one of the biggest is that they act as a mandate or rebuke on presidential leadership,” teacher Nicholas Macdonnell said. “Typically, the president’s party will lose seats during a midterm election.  This could slow the president’s agenda as the president must work with Congress to pass laws and budget.  In addition to this, new governor’s laws and state level officials can drastically change the dynamics of state politics.”

Macdonnell believes these effects contribute to the significance of midterms and as an American citizen, all elections are critical to him.

“Midterms are very important, but since there is no presidential election, it could be argued they are less important, although only slightly,” Macdonnell said.  “The sad thing is many voters treat them as unimportant and don’t go out and vote,”

Senior Annie Gordan will cast her first ballot on Nov. 6 and understands the significance of this election cycle. Gordon ‘s incentives to vote stem from the current political climate, her sense of moral duty and a simple longing for an increased knowledge of political issues.

“I am voting. We are given the privilege to vote so we need to exercise it. Congressmen are the ones who make the main legislative decisions, so their decisions directly impact me,” Gordon said. “We are [also] given a great opportunity that other countries do not get. I feel like it is my civic duty to vote. People literally lost their lives for this freedom so the least I could do is register to vote, inform myself, and vote.”

Like Macdonnell, Gordon regards the midterms to be as vital as the presidential elections.

Unlike the nation-wide congressional elections taking place, the outcome of the governor’s race and other local races may affect the State of Kansas significantly. The midterms will have a greater impact on her life and therefore must be considered of importance.

“Midterms are just as important as the presidential elections because the people I elect affect me directly. Governors make statewide decisions about education budgets, infrastructure, etc. Congressmen vote on vital issues in Washington,” Gordon said. “The president does not hold all the power, so all elections are equally as important. Congress creates budgets for the government and allocates money and since we are in major debt, this is very important right now.”

Gun control stands out as a prominent issue among students during this election cycle. Gordon believes that the results of the election will produce a mandate on this highly debated subject.

“I definitely feel the impacts of Congress’ decisions,” Gordon said. “One issue that continues to affect me is gun control because I am living in a country where we now have ‘active shooter’ drills at school or at my volunteer job at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. These are issues Congress has a say in.”

Employing this privilege every American is gifted with, motivates Gordon. Voting provides a platform for the government to recognize her voice.

Senior Clare Price shares Gordon’s faith that voting will make a difference and she is prepared to speak her mind in the upcoming elections.

“Heck yes,” Price said.

Price responded enthusiastically about her decision to vote. Nov. 6 will also be Price’s first time voting.The value of voting has [already] been instilled in her by her older siblings. In addition, Price also believes that living in a country that allows voting is a privilege.  This privilege along with the precedents set by her family, influence her firm decision to vote. Moreover, the current political situation in America further encourages her to exercise her right.

“If we are granted the opportunity to vote in what we believe in, I see no reason why anyone should not,” said Price.

“This specific midterm is especially important to me because of the political direction that the United States is in,” Price said. “Without making it too political, I am really uncomfortable with certain policy changes and makers, and [I] am so excited to join the wave of young, passionate voters in making a difference.”

Price recognizes the apathy surrounding midterms, just as Gordon and Macdonnell do, but is not influenced by it.

“The composition of the Senate and House play a crucial role in what gets passed, so putting your preferred official in office during the Midterms can create a huge wave of change.” said Price.

This wave of change, she senses, will even travel to Kansas and into Overland Park, producing profound effects on local issues.

“As a young person living in an affluent area, I know I am spared from many of the harsh effects that occur as a result of some policy change,” Price said. “However, I am very aware of many marginalized communities that very much feel the effects, such as Flint, Michigan and indigenous communities in Alaska who first-hand see climate change destroying their way of life. Even more personally, as a female, I am intimately affected by changes in access to reproductive health.”

No matter the location or geography, religion or race, social or political views, voting affects each American. The outcome of these midterm elections will impact the average person’s life. Macdonnell, Gordon, and Price are all actively fighting to create the changes they want to see in their country.

“You have the privilege of being given a vote, so go use it.” said Price.

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