Student Journalism at San Rafael High School

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

Off the Leash

Just Vote, Lil Bro

Around 400 SRHS students will be able to vote in the 2024 presidential election. They must.

Having the ability to vote gives power to the people. It is a right that many in the world don’t have. People in the United States have the ability to elect government officials who serve their best interest into office. Creating change or maintaining a functional society is only possible due to voting. Yet, the idea of casting your vote in the United States is not popular. According to the Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning and Engagement, roughly around 27% of all eligible youth voters ages 18-29 participated in the 2022 midterm elections. 

I consider voting a civic responsibility. Everyone who can should vote. Many individuals mistakenly ignore the significance of their vote. They fail to understand that government policies affect every aspect of their lives. For most seniors at San Rafael High School, they will soon be able to vote in the 2024 presidential election. That’s around 400 potential new voters. 

These are a few ideas that I want you to keep in mind if you are thinking about skipping the ballots in both local and national elections. 

Your vote influences the way politicians use federal, state, and city funds. The infrastructure in your city, the budgeting for schools, maintaining highways you drive your car on, and neighborhood safety. Recreational activities, fire department funding, financing local libraries, fixing broken street lights and the random potholes in the roads. The list goes on and on. 

You should vote because everything in life is truly connected to politics. It is easy to categorize politics as just two polarizing political parties with its members engaging in fierce culture wars. People underestimate how American society is shaped by the affairs of our elected officials.  

I spoke with Mayor Kate Colin, who has the distinction of being the first elected women mayor of San Rafael. In regards to her constituents, Mayor Kate, as she likes to be called, believes that “our community is deeply concerned about the bigger societal issues of homelessness, affordable housing, climate change, social justice, and economic growth.” 

Students and teachers highlight these issues as well. Erik Velasquez Hernandez, a senior at SRHS, says that “the homelessness issue near [his] area is really bad.” He wishes more could be done by the city. 

“Housing costs, rent, and housing prices are just unsustainable for so many families,” says Ms. Verheecke, a teacher at SRHS. “Wages are not going up at the same rate, so people are really struggling to live here.”

This ties into my next point. When you vote, you have the power to choose who best represents you and your interests. Throughout all of American history, politicians have been influenced by two things: money and votes. 

In regards to voting, if a large number of people campaign and show popular interest in an issue, it signals to the politician that the idea is popular and they are more likely to support the measure to remain in power.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022, the issue of abortion once again became a state’s rights issue. Due to popular state-wide support of abortion in California, Proposition 1 was overwhelmingly passed into the state constitution. Abortion became a protected right in California, making it illegal for the state to deny a woman’s reproductive freedom.  

Many students at SRHS are supporters of this proposition. 

Mollie Markwick, a freshman, says, “It’s a woman’s body. Her body, her choice. No one should be forced to give birth to a child.” 

Uni Tsang, a junior, adds, “Government should stay out of it because it’s the choice of the user. They should focus on the lives of already born children as opposed to the ones who aren’t yet alive.”

You also directly contribute to the advancement of American democracy by voting. The road to national suffrage was not perfect. In the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1791, voting was regulated to a small group of white land owning men. Poll taxing and literacy tests were enshrined into many state constitutions to oppress voters. Most evidently, women and nonwhite Americans were disenfranchised.

After the conclusion of the American Civil War (1861-65) there was enough momentum in Congress to pass many significant amendments. The 15th amendment made it illegal for the U.S. government to deny or make void of a vote on the basis of race. In congruent with these passages, there was a slow but growing movement for the suffrage of women. Decades of discontent finally led to the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote. Ms. Farrell, a teacher at SRHS, says that, “We are now a more full democracy because of it, it’s only sad that it took so long.”

Participating in voting acknowledges the long and brutal struggle for voting access for underrepresented Americans. Many Americans were persecuted or even killed in the advancement of voting rights. For instance, in 1964, James Cheney and two other men, who were members of Congress of Racial Equality, were brutally beaten and shot to death by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. 

One of the biggest turn offs that people have with voting is that election day is typically held on Tuesdays, which is a very inconvenient day for many Americans. I fully acknowledge that voting can be difficult for blue-collar workers or families with low income. People would preferably work to gain money for food or rent. Some have families to take care of as well. Going in person to the voting booth is not possible for some. 

Despite this hurdle, I still believe that you could have your voice be heard. California has made it easy to vote with mail-in ballots. In some counties, it is affordable as well. Mayor Kate says, “In Marin County, everyone now receives a mail-in ballot so all they need to do is vote and then drop it in the mailbox. The postage is paid for so there is no cost to the voter.”

Mail-in ballots eliminates the obstacle of Americans not being able to go in person to cast their vote. It helps young voters and minorities who are disproportionately misrepresented in election cycles. 

Voting is significant for American democracy. We need for people to express their views of our current society so that improvement can be made. Compliance is not always the answer. Everyone’s voice matters and if you choose to disenfranchise yourself, your criticisms will not be heard. 


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