Step It Up

Kathleen Gartner

The turnout for young voters in elections is shameful.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2012 only 38% of Americans ages 18-24 voted in the presidential election. For a nation founded on the principles of representation and freedom, it’s embarrassing. Granted, the national voter turnout percentage increases as age does, but this is not an excuse. The direction of our nation should be just as impactful and important to a college freshman as it is to a retiree.

As horrible as the statistics are, it’s easy to say to yourself, “Well, I’m not like most people. Of course I’ll vote when I’m old enough.” But would you?

In August, all West students were given the opportunity to vote for their peers in the annual Student Council elections. This small scale democracy proved that voting trends start early. Fifty five percent of freshmen voted, 21% of sophomores, 20% of juniors, and 11% of seniors voted.

Those numbers are pretty poor to begin with, but it gets worse. Take a closer look at the senior class. Eleven percent translates to 40 seniors. For the fall elections, 11 seniors ran for 10 senior class representative positions. Assuming that each candidate voted for themselves, only 29 other seniors voted (8%). So really, each candidate only needed 2-3 people to vote for them to get elected.

This highlights two key issues: a lack of candidates and a lack of obligation to vote. Generally, the same group of kids run for positions every year, perhaps excluding freshman year. I would know, I’ve been a representative for the past four years. If you’ve ever shied away from running for office, just know the winning margin might be smaller than you think. Perhaps when a larger, more representative group of students decide to run, more students will participate in voting.

Another issue with voters is that they feel their vote doesn’t count, or that their one vote won’t make a difference. Sound familiar? I hope I’ve shown you that our apathy towards voting in high school is really no different than national indifference towards elections. In fact, the overall percentage of voters in the student body: 39.5%. This is a mere point and a half off of the national average.

Yeah, I know. StuCo is a little different from voting in the presidential election. But still. Student Council elections are a chance for the students to choose who represents them, and the turnout numbers are extremely reflective of the national apathy towards voting.
If students won’t bother to vote for their peers- many of whom know the candidates personally- why would they take time to vote for some seemingly distant Washington political candidate?