LHS students fired up about midterm elections

Students register to vote in droves, increase political participation

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LHS students fired up about midterm elections

Students register to vote with the League of Women Voters on September 21.

Students register to vote with the League of Women Voters on September 21.

Students register to vote with the League of Women Voters on September 21.

Students register to vote with the League of Women Voters on September 21.

By Zora Lotton-Barker, Staff Writer

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More young voters are predicted to vote than ever before, and LHS students are contributing to the upward trend.

Jack Hood, a longtime social studies teacher at Lawrence High, said he saw more enthusiasm from his students than in past years.

“When we registered to vote this year with seniors, my three senior classes were so fired up to go register,” Hood said. “And I think that is a direct result in politics and their interest in politics, and I think it increased their wanting to at least get registered.”

In 1976, 18-24 year olds made up 18 percent of all eligible voters in America, but only 13 percent voted according to civicyouth.org.

By 2008, 47 percent of America’s youth voted, and in the 2008 Presidential Election, the number of youth voters tripled or quadrupled, depending on state, according to the National Civic Review.

Senior Derek White plans to vote in the midterm elections and said it’s important for young voters to be involved in politics.

“I became very, very, very, upset with some policies that had been made, especially around the end of Obama’s administration,” he said. “I am very much invested in Native American affairs, and stuff like that, so when Standing Rock happened, I was very much present…I thought that the only reason that policies like that would stop was for me to get involved in politics.”

White is one of many new voters who have become politically active in recent years due to America’s growing political divide, and will take part in what is expected to be the largest percentage of youth voting since 1976, the first year in which 18 year olds were able to vote.

Many organizations are working to increase voting even more in the 2018 midterms. One of these is the League of Women Voters.

The League of Women Voters, or the LWV, is an American civic organization that was formed to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote.

The League of Women Voters has an active Lawrence chapter, which held a voter registration drive at Lawrence High in April and then again on Sept. 21. The Youth Voter Registration Project conducted by LWV in spring of 2018 included 11 registration events at schools, drawing in 850 students and yielding 383 completed voter registration applications.

Students have become more politically active in the wake of school shootings, including the murders last year of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Since Parkland and with the activism of the surviving students, we have seen an uptick in registration of those who are 17,” treasurer Melissa Wick said. Students can register when they are 17 but can’t vote until they are 18.

Hood said that when Bernie Sanders campaigned in 2016, he saw the largest spike in political interest from his students in years.

“We saw more political action out of kids during the Democratic Primary with Bernie Sanders and that phase than I had probably seen in the last 15 or 16 years at Lawrence High,” he said. “Kids were fired up to participate, to help, to go poll, to do all sorts of stuff to help Bernie Sanders.”

“If you really want to see change you have to be that change, and democracy is not a spectator sport,” he said. “You can’t just sit around and hope for things to change. You have to be that change. You have to act on that. I think it’s very important the youth get involved.”