Hearing from students who have pre-registered to exercise their right to vote and looking into the experiences of students who participated in pre-registration drives.
In the 2020 presidential elections, the nation broke records for voter turnout, with more than 158 million ballots cast. Specifically, the election saw a large spike in youth voter turnout, with 52-55% of all youth casting their ballots. For the past several years, American High School has been holding pre-registration drives in which students can efficiently register early on to vote in state and federal elections. But, at the end of the day, it is students’ choice whether they want to pre register or not.
Shreya Patil (12) who pre-registered last year says she pre-registered to make her voice heard: “I wanted to be eligible to vote when I was 18 because I actually get to have a say in the government and pre-registering was really the first step.”
Azaan Sharif (12) who pre-registered in school last year, says “I decided to pre-register when we were going to do it during school. I’ve always planned on it, but doing it at school made it super convenient. I didn’t debate it because I knew I wanted to vote eventually.”
However, a lot of eligible highschoolers choose not to pre-register; Sharif says this may be due to the confusion regarding partisanship. He says, “I think that some students may not want to pre-register because they may not feel as if they are ready to vote or get involved in that aspect of society yet. Like the form asks you about which political party you associate yourself with and even though you can select the ‘unsure’ option, it’s still a tough decision. So, others may want to think more about it before going through with pre-registration.”
Shreya also felt similarly when selecting a specific party. She says, “I didn’t know which party to register with because I could choose between Democrat, Republican, or Independent so I had to text and ask my mom.”
On the other hand, some juniors have decided to pre-register by themselves due to the lack of school held drives. Kavin Goyal (11), who currently leads the AHS BAStA (Bay Area Student Activists), has already pre-registered by choice. He says, “With the crises which younger generations are dealing with right now, especially with a reckoning on racial violence and climate change, I believe that is important to motivate students to become accustomed to their voting power through pre-registration long before they can cast a vote. I’ve already pre-registered and I hope that I can help my classmates who haven’t done so to follow through.”
Youth activists nationwide have encouraged voting in midterm and presidential elections. To teens, specifically, issues such as gun-control and climate change are topics that arise passion and interest. For instance, celebrity and youth activist Yara Shahidi launched the Eighteen x 18 voting initiative in January of 2017 to create a nonpartisan platform in which youth can learn more about the voting process and register to vote in midterm elections. Even more, David Dobrik, a social media star, encouraged youth to vote by giving away Teslas to those who had registered for the 2020 presidential elections. Clearly, the prominence of voting is highly stressed, and youth voter turnout is an especially highlighted issue.
When asked whether the voting age should be reduced, Sharif says, “I think the age shouldn’t be changed because a lot of [younger] students vote out of emotion or follow the crowd rather than voting based on the facts or personal values. Additionally, taking government and economics is only possible for high-school seniors so it makes more sense to be able to vote after taking these courses.”
Some students were ineligible to pre-register due to their citizenship status. Aarthi Kannan (12) wasn’t able to pre-register in her junior year, says “I still want to pre-register. I think I can pre-register now or just register with my driver’s license so I’m looking forward to doing that so I can vote when I’m 18!”
With the current pandemic, schools have found it difficult to incorporate pre-registration drives for students. However, a multitude of organizations—such as vote411.org—have made registering online an easy process for youth. With the 2022 midterm elections coming up, those who turn 18 have the opportunity to put in their vote. As Sharif says, “I plan on voting for the 2022 midterms because I do believe that every vote does indeed matter.”