Voting: its importance, how to be an educated voter

As the senior class anticipates their graduation seven months away, a number of students are getting a glimpse into adulthood. A new right, granted to them by their 18th birthday, can finally be put into action: voting.

However, not many students are jumping at the chance to get into a polling booth; in fact, AP and Dual Credit Government teacher Doctor Lisa Thomason estimated that among the students who are of voting age, only 50 percent actually vote.

“Younger people are the lowest percentage to vote, especially in midterm elections,” Dr. Thomason said. “They oftentimes don’t see how what the candidates are talking about applies to their life, or they don’t feel like they’re informed.”

How can that be fixed?

Students have access to a multitude of resources in order to gain the information they need to make their own decisions when voting. League of Women Voters of Texas, for instance, has video explanations about various state elected office positions. Teach the Vote, a similar website, provides insight on political parties and offers other sources for voter education.

As for figuring out where to vote, Dr. Thomason recommended using the VoteDenton website. She laid out the various uses and the plethora of information it has to offer, especially for students who don’t know where to start.

“You just go to voter registration and voter look-up,” Dr. Thomason said. “You put your name and date of birth, and it will tell you where you vote; it has early and election day voting places.”

She also pointed out that the website shows each individual voter’s elected officials, and it has a sample ballot that allows voters to see all the candidates prior to their visit to the polling booth. It provides adequate time to thoroughly research each candidate’s platform before making a decision.

Unfortunately, the time for voter registration has already passed; all voters must be registered at least 30 days before the election takes place. However, as students turn 18 and continue to receive voter registration cards via mail, or as a gift by their history teacher, the many options of turning it in remain.

All high school principals are designated as someone who can take voter registration ballots, but they can also name somebody as their Deputy. In other words, they can share the responsibility with another teacher.

“Dr. Hess can accept those [voter registration] cards,” Dr. Thomason said. “You can also mail it in, or you can drop it off at Denton County Elections Administration.”

But why should students vote, anyway? Senior Carter Smith, a participant in early voting, credited the importance of voting to the United States’ democratic foundation.

“It means I get a say,” Smith said. “I think it’s important because that’s what this country is based on, and I’m excited to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Senior Courtney Pedigo also agreed that having the ability to vote for her interests as a student was vital, though she approached it with a different attitude.

“It helps make sure what I want is heard,” Pedigo said. “Otherwise, if I don’t contribute, I can’t get upset with what happens.”

Early voting began Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2. During this time, voters may go to any available early voting centers to cast their ballots. On Election Day, Nov. 6, voters must go to their designated polling place.

“If you don’t vote, you’re letting old people make the decisions for you,” Dr. Thomason said. “Their issues and concerns may not be a younger person’s issues and concerns.”