Voting Blocks

Lack of interest, information push students far from politics

Julia Kolman, Editor in Chief

Students are showing a lack of interest in voting, which could lead to issues as a lot of seniors will be able to vote by graduation.

When he turns 18, senior Dante Reinoso doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to exercise his right to vote.

His parents are European green card holders, so they can’t vote yet. He said that he will vote when he cares about the issues.

“Voting hasn’t been present in my family,” Reinoso said. “My older brother was the first one to vote in my family, and he just did in the presidential election.”

Meanwhile, junior Jessica Silva believes just the opposite is true. She believes it is her duty to vote, and her non-citizen parents feel that way, too.

“When they’re citizens, they’ll be glad to vote.” Silva said.

These two sides show the divergence among Branham students, and how they view the importance of their vote.

Branham students’ estimates on their likelihood of voting varies. According to a survey of 156 students, 59.6 percent strongly believe their vote matters, while 12.2 percent don’t.

“I overhear people my age saying that one vote doesn’t matter, but if every person has that mindset, then that’s a lot of people [not voting],” said Silva.

Students weigh the significance of national and local elections differently. 78.2 percent are very likely to vote in a presidential election, 47.4 percent are in a congressional election, and 51.2 percent are in a local election.

This likelihood of participation is improbable following the trend of voter turnout in recent elections. 46.1 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 participated in the 2016 presidential election, an approximately one percent increase from the 2012 election.

Even on an educational level, elections have low voter participation. In the 2017 Homecoming court nominations, only 22.2 percent of Branham freshmen, 26.1 percent of sophomores, 20.2 percent of juniors, and 31.5 percent of seniors voted for their nominees on the 5-Star app. Students had the option to select two candidates for Homecoming court from their grade level from an app, yet the majority opted not to vote.

The lack of voter participation can be traced to various factors, including dissatisfaction with politicians. Only 10.9 percent of students claim the majority of politicians reflect their political views.

Government teacher Kirk Selfridge finds the lack of participation reasonable for any generation.

“How many young politicians do you see catering to and talking to those that are under the age of 18… telling them ‘you’re the next generation of voters and your participation is vital to continuing our democracy’?” said Selfridge.

Due to the Democrats’ loss and growing number of third party voters in the recent election, a lack of political efficacy is understandable.

Reinoso doesn’t see his vote holding much influence after Hillary Clinton’s loss.

“Because of the results of the recent presidential election, with the majority of votes going to Hillary, and then being overruled by the electoral college… our vote doesn’t matter,” he said.

Selfridge believes that “a group of disengaged students” was created when President Trump won the election with less votes than Hillary, and the fact that Branham has a major liberal population that opposes his policies. More than half of students’ views closely align with the Democratic Party.

Seven percent of students, however, identify with the Libertarian Party, which had a growing presence in the recent election. More students are aligning with this party, and Branham even hosts a club for the students, the Libertarian Youth Caucus.

“At this age, you want to keep your main identity of who you are as an individual: your style, your music taste, if you are unique and have your own individual flare,” Selfridge states. “You have a different perception and that leads to you having the idea that individuals have the right to these various [liberties].”

Being in two party system, it is unlikely for a third party candidate to win a major seat in upcoming years. This can discourage voters in the Libertarian, Green, and Peace and Freedom Party.

As a Libertarian, Freshman Trevor Gonzalez doesn’t think that his vote has an influence over politics, stating, “Voting doesn’t change the system… Both Democrats and Republicans go for the same thing. They both go for a more authoritarian style of governing.”