Being Young in America: How Voting Changed My Perspective on Politics

Els Krimsky, Sports Editor

I voted for the first time as an 18-year-old. As a result, I learned a few things.

On November 8, my mother drove me to the polls in the same SUV she used to drive me to school in every day. I could have gone on my own, but together my mother and I decided to make Election Day its own holiday.

On the way to the local middle school where we would soon be casting out ballots, we treated ourselves to overly-priced Starbucks coffee and enjoyed conversation about what we hoped would come out of the 2022 midterm elections.  We were excited about making our voices heard in a government meant to represent the over six million people living in the state of Maryland.

The excitement turned into anxiety when we arrived at the polls. I had the daunting task of checking in with the kind citizens who volunteered to work the polls on that cold fall day. The first time I gave my name to check that I was registered, a simple miscommunication between me and the woman working the table sent me into a spiral thinking that I was not actually registered to vote. After correcting the woman on the spelling of my name, she handed me my ballot, and I nervously followed my mother as she made her way to the booth.

Five minutes and one perfectly filled-out ballot later, I had voted in the United States of America for the first time. I left decorated in my “I Voted!” sticker and wore it proudly on my JC uniform for the rest of the school day until it physically could not stick to the fibers of my shirt any longer.

However, from what I understand from being a teenager, high school student, and member of Gen Z, I know that others my age may not be feeling the same way. Some voters even more seasoned than I don’t feel this way, either. The word “politics” has become something to be feared and avoided at all costs. It’s associated with arguing, conflict, and hurt feelings; it is the cause for putting an end to countless relationships with friends and family.

I understand and acknowledge those feelings. I can even relate to them myself, but something that has started to nudge me the wrong way as I’ve gotten older is people — my generation especially — saying that they don’t want to get involved in politics or just simply don’t care enough to do so.

Some people have a valid reason for this, being too busy dealing with life’s challenges or harsh circumstances that occupy the majority of their daily thinking. However, for those who have the resources and time to learn about their country’s political situation, not getting involved in hopes of avoiding awkward conversations is not a sufficient excuse once you reach the age of 18, the eligible voting age in America.

The democratic nature of our country means that the people are supposed to form the presiding voice in the government. While this has not always remained true due to preventative legislation that greatly inhibited the voting rights of people of color, people of disabilities, and women, in the end, it is the voters who decide what issues we handle and who we trust to deal with them.

With the plethora of issues that the United States has to confront, it seems obvious that all who have the opportunity to vote would do so. Problems like the impending climate disaster, racial and ethnic injustices, inflation, mass shootings, religious freedom, and gender-based discrimination seem to affect every American in some way or another; yet people are still afraid to confront these issues out of fear that it will create conflict.

Those who agree with my perspective need to be aware that all people need to develop their citizenship somewhere, which will take time if it is done thoughtfully. Political beliefs directly reflect the moral values of a person, which cannot be correctly decided upon if they are not given the time to learn.

Younger generations now emphasize that identity is what should form our political beliefs and not the other way around. Doing so ensures that every aspect of every person is somehow represented in our government, whether it be something as major as racial identity or minor as favorite football team.

All I know is that from my experience, being the only person under the age of 20 in the lobby of that middle school, I felt powerful knowing that among the working adults and retired seniors that my vote was somewhere in with theirs — just as equal and just as important.