An NASSP Student Leadership Initiative

Civic Engagement and Voting

It is almost that time of the year again: election season. This year, 35 of the seats in the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for election. As students, it is important for us to get involved in civics and learn about the things that are going on around us. By understanding the voting process, becoming politically educated, and getting started in civic engagement, you can #EngageInChange on a global level.

Share How You #EngageInChange

Civic Engagement and Voting

By Esther Abiona

Who Do I Vote For?

The best way to ensure that you cast the right vote is by getting educated about all of the candidates and their different platforms by reading the newspaper, watching local and national news, and even doing research online. In the upcoming election, we are not voting for a new president, but rather new representatives. The candidate you choose should be the one that best supports what you believe in and want to see for your community, as they may be your closest person to the president. These representatives also are the people who directly control who gets the presidency via the Electoral College. When we cast our vote for president, our individual votes do not elect our leader. Instead, the votes of the Electoral College, made up of all the senators and representatives of each state, determine who is going to be the president. This is why it is important for us to vote in the midterm election—if we do not elect representatives who support our beliefs, they may pledge to vote for a presidential candidate who we do not fully support.

Another important thing to remember when voting is that your ideas and beliefs should be your own. Parents, teachers, and friends should not affect your vote. Rather, base your vote on what you believe is best for yourself, family, and community. Formulating your vote based on the needs of your community is a local act that has global results. Your vote may seem small and insignificant; however, when you vote at your local level, it creates a ripple effect that could impact the whole world. By voting, you #EngageInChange because you are taking the necessary steps to make a difference. And while you can always ask a parent or a friend about their beliefs, your vote should be a reflection of your own ideas.

The Political Parties

When a candidate is running for a position, they will run as a representative of a political party. Knowing about these parties will help you when you go to vote. The three main parties in American government are: Democratic, Republican, and Independent. Yet, just because you choose to align yourself with a specific political party does not mean you must always vote with them. For example, if you are a Republican, you do not have to vote for a Republican president or representative every time. Political party affiliation simply shows what your main beliefs are. You may be a Democrat but believe that a Republican president’s platform is better for America, and that’s okay.

It’s important to remember that in the upcoming midterm election, the Senate and House seats are elected directly by popular vote—meaning every single vote counts. Each political party has different societal views, so take the time to learn about them before you cast your vote.

Start Now

What you can do right now to get engaged in civics? The first thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to be 18 to start; you can be civically engaged at any age. As students, many laws that are being passed will affect us now and in the future, so we deserve to share our opinions. To begin, you can meet with a local representative or even your senators. After all, these people have the power to amplify your voice.

Advocating and getting your voice heard may not be easy on your own, so you can also start a petition or form a coalition. Coalitions are groups of people that share a common goal or belief. Similarly, a petition is a list of signatures from people who support a certain cause. Both methods show strength in numbers.

Another option is to join a student organization such as student council. With the help of an adviser and like-minded students, student councils all over the nation have already worked hard to #EngageInChange—and you can join them to get involved in your government, schools, and communities.

A mock election is an additional way to get involved. This is a simulation of what it will be like when you actually go to cast your vote in the future. Mock elections help people that are ineligible to vote have a voice, and are often held in schools for students. Ask a staff member at your school for more information if you are interested in participating in one.

American government does not only affect the people that can vote, but also has short-term and long-term effects on students. It is compulsory for us to begin to prepare for our civic responsibility by educating ourselves now. In doing so, we will be equipped with the knowledge that we need to cast an educated ballot. Voting is an outstanding way to #EngageInChange, and you are never too young to be engaged—so start now!


 

Esther Abiona is a senior at the Early College High School at Delaware State University in Dover, DE. She is currently serving the president of the Delaware Association of Student Leaders and the secretary of her school chapter of National Honor Society.