LHS students get fired up about midterm elections


Erin Doyle

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


Jack Hood, a longtime social studies teacher at Lawrence High, said he saw more enthusiasm for voting 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 of politics and their interest in politics, and I think it increased their wanting to at least get registered.”

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 voted 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. According to CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), 31 percent of the country’s 18-29 year-olds voted, the largest percentage of youth voting since 1976, the first year in which 18 year olds were able to vote. This is a 10 percent increase from 2014, the last midterm election year.

Additionally, 67 percent of this demographic voted Democrat, an increase of 14 percent compared to 2014. Kansas youth helped to elect new Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly and U.S. House member Sharice Davids.

Students have also 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,” League of Women Voters treasurer Melissa Wick said.

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.”

The midterms serve as proof that mobilizing any demographic of voters can lead to significant change.

“If you really want to see change you have to be that change, and democracy is not a spectator sport,” White 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.”