By Jessie Stelter
“I think it’s important for young people to vote, because not only do we make up a significant part of the population, but we really determine where the future of this country is heading,” says Oyster River student Cara Greenwald (‘16).
As the day of the New Hampshire primary arrived, many ORHS seniors were excited to head down to the polls to vote. To many seniors, voting seems like a step they are ready to tackle, and is a time many are ready to finally make a contribution to our political future. Some were ecstatic to reach this milestone, while others found it overwhelming, or even felt unqualified.
“I questioned not voting because I felt somewhat intimidated and was concerned that I am not knowledgeable enough to make my own decision.” States ORHS senior Meaghan Campbell (‘16). She explains, “I think we have all been dependent on our parents viewpoints, so having the opportunity to think on our own is a new concept, but an important one. I had a conversation with my parents about my opinions on certain topics and issues, which may have been different from theirs. It was pretty daunting.”
In contrast, Greenwald explains the reactions of excitement that she’d witnessed the day of the primary. She states, “Many of my friends could vote, and they were ecstatic to do so. I think the fact that we can finally contribute to the bigger picture not only excites people our age, but gives us hope that we have a voice that we forgot we had.”
Oyster River social studies teacher Derek Cangello witnesses his senior students talk of the primaries in class. He has a similar observation, explaining, “Coming from a politically driven area, Oyster River students usually seem honored, like they can’t wait to vote. Kids seem to take it seriously, almost like a birthright. I remember back in 2012 during the presidential election, seniors who turned eighteen after the election were very upset because they couldn’t vote.”
Campbell brings up an aspect of young voters that she had witnessed on the days leading to the primary, stating, “So many of us were grateful to vote, and that mindset is so important in order to keep our generation active in the path of our future. Although, I worry that sometimes there are people that don’t do enough research and make a decision on a whim because they’re just excited they are old enough to vote.” She believes there is an aspect of conformity that comes along with voting at a young age, whether that be the viewpoints of their parents, or confirmation from their friends. She goes on to say, “I’ve witnessed many eligible senior voters change their minds because of who their peers were rooting for.”
Cangello acknowledges this as well, and explains how it is important to look at the big picture. “I believe kids tend to be passionate about a lot of political topics, because it directly affects them. Although I try to educate kids about if they feel strongly about a certain topic, they shouldn’t lump themselves into supporting everything in that category.”
ORHS student Julia Williams (‘17), explains how she has also witnessed an aspect of conformity among seniors, although she doesn’t necessarily think it’s a negative thing. “I am so glad young people can vote. They may have less life experience, but they have a voice, and I don’t think older voters are less susceptible to being influenced by others as to their voting decision.” Williams goes on to talk of the about how there are so many outside influences that can affect one’s opinion, whether it be the media, or their environment. She believes the senior voters at Oyster River are very open minded, and “relatively unbiased. I think being able to be change your mind from Bernie to Hillary, or from Trump to Cruz is actually great. The open discussion is important.”
Greenwald gives an example, explaining, “I know so many people my age voting for Bernie Sanders. I know if I could have voted in the primaries, I would have voted for Bernie. I really like his ideas, and his whole attitude in general. I feel like our future president not only needs to have an idealistic mindset, but also the ability to connect with the people of our country in order to convey their ideas.” She then adds, “I know a lot of people are jumping on the ‘Bernie bandwagon’, but I don’t think that’s bad. That’s how progression happens- a snowball effect; a movement.
In this recent New Hampshire primary, approximately 85% of democratic voters under age 30 voted for Bernie Sanders. This shows the impact many young voters have to sway the results of the primary, and reflects the views many young voters have today.
Contrary to that statistic, ORHS student Alexa Swanson (‘16) chose not to follow in other student’s footsteps. She explains, “The person who would have most likely had my vote would have been Carly Fiorina (even though she now has ended her campaign). I don’t think many people my age voted for her because she’s not well known compared to other Republican candidates. I hadn’t heard one student our age talk about someone other than Bernie, Hillary, or Trump.” Swanson explains why she feels it is important look at many different candidates. “I think young people especially should look into all aspects of each candidate to fully take advantage of their democratic right, and not just go with whoever is most popular.”
“It seems so strange to me that just the grade above me can vote in the 2016 election; some even in the primaries.” Williams jokes, “These are the people that I’ve grown up with, and they already are doing adulty-things.” She then concludes, “I think young people have so insight to offer, and I am grateful our seniors can contribute to that.”