by Cameron Bolton | April 6, 2016 8:20 am
“Voting is one of your greatest rights as an American, and I believe that to not use it is wasteful,” said Riverside Brookfield High School senior and first-time voter Matthew Patton.
March 15 marked the day voting for the Illinois primary occurred. For some this was a recurring event, but for some seniors this year, it was their very first chance to have a say in government. Since 2014, seventeen-year-olds can vote in primary contests in Illinois so long as they will turn eighteen by November.
To investigate how first-time voters at Riverside Brookfield feel about the process, Clarion sat down with social studies teacher John Fields, who registers RB students to vote and directs students as they work the election as judges. Fields teaches about elections in one of his classes.
“Government covers elections. We never tell kids who to vote for, but we do give information on who’s running,” said Fields.
Several things go into picking a candidate: party, ideals, and if the voter thinks the person is right for that office. Candidates send out bits of information to the public to show that people should vote for them.
“This was my first time voting and I felt semi-prepared. I feel as though in the primaries they just advertise the presidential candidates, but there’s more you can vote for,” said senior Silvana Alvarez.
Something that Fields also teaches during his government class is that voters have a right not to vote. If they so choose, they don’t have to participate.
“I registered because I wanted my opinions to be heard in terms of who I want my elected officials to be,” Matthew Patton said.
Likewise, Fields was asked whether or not he believed that students should choose to vote.
“Absolutely. I think the more younger people get involved, the better we can improve our political system. The younger they take an interest in politics, the more they’ll like to be politically active,” Fields said. “Younger people sometimes have more time to be involved than older people.”
But should RB do more than just cover elections in a social studies course?
“I think that students that take government first semester senior year are very informed,” Patton said, “but second semester students are at a disadvantage because they can’t learn all of the essential material before they vote. I would recommend either making government a full year class to cover more material or to have students take it junior year.”
Alvarez also said something in a similar vein.
“I think RB did a good job of publicizing [in raising] voting [awareness] to the seniors,” Alvarez said, “but not to the juniors.”
Speaking with Fields, he explained that the reason government is a requirement for senior year was because in the past people have voted when they’re eighteen.
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