Encouraging 18-year-olds to vote in their first election

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(ABC 6 News) – This Tuesday will be the first time many high schoolers can vote. Given it’s a midterm election, are 18-year-olds making the extra effort to go to the polls?

Benjamin Duchsherer, a senior at Century High School said he’s excited to vote but has heard a mix of reactions from his peers. Some are excited to vote for the first time, and others are more hesitant.

He said he believes there’s a certain stigma around ‘speaking your mind’ in today’s political and social climate. Noting that’s a reason why some of his peers are choosing not to vote – because they think their vote won’t make a difference.

“I definitely understand the idea of my vote doesn’t matter,” said Duchsherer.

“Because after all, it is just one vote. But you also have to think that it starts with one vote and while your vote might not be necessarily the breaking point between a winner in an election, it starts with your vote. And your vote can lead to other votes that lead to breakthroughs in elections.”

Duchsherer said he isn’t worried about election fraud. He’s confident there are good people running the polls to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Shane Baker, a 12th-grade government teacher at Century said the biggest difference between teaching politics now, and five years ago is that students are more hesitant to share their thoughts.

One concern he said students have is if they give their opinion, they’ll be mislabeled as something they’re not. One example is before social media really became a thing, you could say, “maybe I didn’t say that right,” or “let me clarify.” Now, if someone misspeaks, that moment can be replayed over and over again.

“If everyone I know, whatever that means, heard me say something that I’m not 100% proud to stand behind in that moment, or I wish I would’ve said it a little different, that can really cause people to self regulate what they’re saying and how they’re conversing with each other,” said Baker.

Baker said teachers spend more time now focused on immediate reactions to current political issues and taking time to analyze a situation to put it into context.

If he polled his students, he guesses a majority of the 18-year-olds will go out and vote on Tuesday. He hopes the lesson “voting is easy” and what’s at stake is something they will carry with them for future elections.