Feb. 3, 1870. It was on this day that the 15th Amendment was ratified, allowing every man no matter what “race, color or previous condition of servitude” to vote. Although it took much longer for women’s suffrage, eventually they too were able to vote and have a say in the government.
A variety of factors affect the voting process, and influence the voter into selecting a certain candidate, especially when it comes to younger voters. Cornell University’s ROPER Center for Public Opinion Research reported that in the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the 18-29 age group consisted of 19 percent of all voters, the second lowest number of voters.
Senior Nirupama Chandrasekhar, who cannot vote in this election due to the lack of an American citizenship, strongly encourages other students to do so as they have the opportunity.
“Whether they don’t have faith in the political system, whether they’re just lazy or not interested, I think that’s a real crime, honestly,” Chandrasekhar said, “We are living in this country and I don’t think you have any right to complain about what the government is doing if you haven’t gone out and voted.”
Senior Shruti Shankar, a future voter in the final presidential election, claims sometimes people just aren’t interested in reading up on the candidates’ stances. She believes that it is important for students to be aware of political stances and actions, not simply to sound intelligent but also to maintain strong background information that can be used to make an informed vote.
“People don’t really know who they’re voting for. It’s more the mob mentality thing, which is pretty scary if you think about it,” Shankar said. “Because if enough people say they’re going to vote for a certain candidate, chances are twenty other are going to follow.”
And the media is an extremely influential factor in the voting process because of its ability to affect the public’s perception of the different candidates and their stances. However, there are some discrepancies in various news organizations’ reporting of winners of debates and state polls.
Fortune magazine described how “CNN, which hosted the debate, wrote that Clinton ‘proved without a doubt’ why she’s currently the Democratic frontrunner; Forbes bestowed letter grades, placing the former Secretary of State at the top of her class with an ‘A-’; The National Journal claims that the she won simply because she is a strong debater and Bernie Sanders is not.”
Government teacher Ben Recktenwald believes students may be extremely influenced by social media, especially younger voters.
“Trump, for example, a lot of the stuff that comes out of him is just tweets. Like, really? How can you express some sophisticated idea on policy in a tweet? And that’s becoming the trend.” Recktenwald said. “A lot of people are getting their information on elections based on really tightly compartmentalized pieces of information.”
Chandrasekhar believes that another important factor in the voting process is the role teachers and parents play in influencing their students to look for certain values or advantages in candidates. Because parents may hold their own strong political viewpoints, they can instill some of those values in their children, ultimately influencing their child’s vote.
Another information source is school, where some history and government classes directly involve teaching students about the struggles for rights in the past centuries, highlighting how hundreds of historical figures have affected the voting and governmental process today.
“I think in US history, our whole job is to expose that process,” History teacher Robbie Hoffman said. “And the rights people didn’t have and their goal and triumph to obtain those rights.”
Furthermore, some teachers try to give students more insight on the presidential candidates. They will inform students about the different plans that the presidential candidates are looking to implement. In his AP Government classes, Recktenwald provides students with quizzes that determine how close their values match with those of all the candidates.
“One of the nice things about government, is that what you’re talking about in the class is what’s really happening,” Recktenwald said. “In theory, every student when they leave this classroom should be highly qualified to vote, because that’s the whole point of Government — getting you prepared for voting.”
Students not only have the chance to vote on a national level, but also on a local level. Every year, students have the chance to elect class officers who will make decisions and organize events such as dances and rallies for the entire class.
In the past, complaints about class office and Leadership have arisen with students questioning the amount of effort the Leadership committees put into organizing entertaining events, raising money or motivating students during rally week. However, the final results are not the only thing students criticize.
In a survey of 274 students, 82 percent of students believe that popularity is a factor in elections. Senior class vice president Ahmad Ali-Ahmad also firmly believes that popularity is extremely vital in class elections.
“I would say popularity is 100 percent the main contributing factor to someone winning,” Ali-Ahmad said, “you vote for your friend, or you vote for the person you know the best. Maybe it’s because I’ll do a good job, but most likely it’s because of name recognition or for knowing or being friends with people.”
In the way that many potential voters do not know everything about a presidential candidate, many students are not aware of the what exactly the separate leadership classes do.
According to senior Emma Pickett, a member the Student Life committee, all the events planned are to ensure that students have something to look forward to or can pursue the actions they want, such as raising money for clubs or similar.
“All the events we plan, and all the time we spend — I’ve had to miss practices, games, and different things or family time,” Pickett said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot for leadership, and it’s not for leadership, it’s for the school.”