Your vote matters: Why high school students should care

“It’s one vote in a federal election. What difference will it make?”

For young voters, especially for most high school students who have never actively participated in politics before, this question is inevitable. It’s easy to think a high school student’s vote doesn’t count and brush off the responsibility to vote. It’s easy to think that your vote doesn’t make a difference in an election where millions of other people vote too. 

And you know what? In a country like the US, one single vote won’t flip the whole election on its head. But here’s the thing: if we all think that way, then nothing changes. That’s why it’s important that a large number of high school students vote — in order to truly make a difference in issues young people care about. 

The presidential primary elections in Illinois are tomorrow, so it is a good time to start thinking about voting now. You can vote in the primary election even if you are only 17 (17-year-olds may vote in a General Primary if they will be 18 by the following General Election on November 5). 

But what policies are relevant in politics today? What are we voting for? Those are good questions. Issues like abortion, legalizing marijuana, and paid leave are becoming increasingly relevant. And of course, there are timeless issues like climate change and the national debt that are constantly relevant in politics. 

There are also issues that are more directly related to students in this district. District 211, for example, has been involved in controversial decisions in the past regarding transgender students accessing certain spaces within its buildings. The Acceleration Act, enacted more recently, automatically places students into the next most rigorous level of advanced coursework. It might not seem like high school voters have a say in national issues that they may care about, but they certainly can get a say in local policies regarding D211 issues by participating in local or state politics.

Whether you’re voting because you’re hoping to change a certain policy or because you want to change all of them, know that it’s crucial for eligible students to vote because it’s so important for young people to make their voices heard.

The significance that younger voters play in politics was made clear on July 1, 1971, when the US ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. This granted young adults the right to vote; however, challenges regarding young voters still persist.

For instance, former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy supports changing the US voting age to 25, even though 18-year-olds are considered mature enough to be legal adults and join the military. In our very own district, most 18-year-olds are seniors who are required to pass not only US History, but also government and economics in order to graduate. These classes teach students fundamental concepts of government and American history, which help students make informed decisions while casting a vote and feel empowered while doing it.

This is why we need to vote. It’s important for us to make our voice heard, because if we don’t, people will silence it. With each election cycle, a new generation makes up a substantial portion of the US population. Consequently, every election presents an opportunity to advocate for evolving societal needs and values. 

Generational divides, such as those between Gen Z and Gen X or older generations, cause differences in ideals and social expectations. Without the younger generation’s input, the future adults of US society can be drowned out by the contrasting morals of the older generation, which means our beliefs aren’t reflected in policies that affect us. We high schoolers may not be worried about this right now, but we will be once we become the adults whose families are affected by the political policies being established right now. So, why not just start building the habit to vote now, while making sure your voice as a high school student is heard at the same time?

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you vote Democrat, Republican, or Independent. All that matters is that you are trying to create a brighter future for yourself and becoming an active member in one of the most important institutions in today’s society.

Now is the time to start shaping your future, and it starts with one vote.

Zehra Ozcan | Conant Crier

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