First-time voters: BUHS seniors discuss their choices on Election Day
BRATTLEBORO -- On Nov. 6 -- Election Day -- several students at Brattleboro Union High School will be voting for the first time. Five seniors who will be among them gathered recently to discuss their choices.
Yuri Harris said that he is interested in voting because he sees the direct effect of politics on young people.
"Our generation is going to be paying for all the problems that past presidents have been having in our lifetimes, or even before, like the economy and war," he said. "It's more real than it ever was, because we were just kids talking about it before."
Rebecca Potter said that although the two major-party candidates are very different, it was interesting to learn about other choices.
"For me on the national level it's a very clear choice between Obama and Romney," she commented, "but after hearing from more parties that aren't as represented in the mainstream media, I'm looking at those. Although she's too young to actually be president, it was interesting to hear from Peta Lindsay who represents the Socialist and Liberation Party and the ideals she stood for."
"She's on the ballot in 13 states," said Peter Green.
"She's using the election as a vehicle to get the message out about the Socialist Party," added Aurora Phillips.
Potter said that that message emphasized healthcare and the economy.
"She talked about universal healthcare, for one thing," Potter said, "and the concept of a different view on our economic pathway. It's public ownership versus private, which is what capitalism stands for."
Green said that he was following the campaigns closely on the state level as well as the national one.
"I try to follow various news sources and try to keep myself informed. I think both on a state and national level the choices are obvious, for me at least -- Shumlin for governor because he's the Democratic candidate and I like the work he's been doing," he said. "I like his efforts to help clean up from Tropical Storm Irene; that was the big one for me -- no other issue has lunged out at me as being important. I think in terms of economic success, he's trying to make sure everything gets better and that nothing is done that disrupts whatever progress has already been made."
Phillips said that enrolling in Tim Kipp's Elections and Government class pushed her to follow the campaign closely.
"It's made me start watching the news and listening to NPR when I drive to school," she said. "I didn't pay as much attention before."
Phillips joined Green and Potter in pointing to marriage equality as an important issue for them. She added women's health issues.
"I just don't think that politicians who are old men should decide what women should be able to do with their bodies," she commented. "That's not something they should be able to say.
"Listening to different speeches, I feel like for the middle class as a whole, if Romney is elected there might be less of a safety-net, and that's important to me," she continued. "And for all of us, student loans and financial aid are relevant, because we're just about to go to college, and we're up against the process of how to finance that, and it's very overwhelming."
Harris seconded Phillips' support for President Obama, citing both environmental and fiscal issues.
"Romney would lessen the taxes on the upper classes, with the potential of money being put back into the economy, but that's not going to happen," he said.
Carrie Madden was even stronger in her opposition to Mr. Romney.
"I think it's blatantly obvious that Romney doesn't care about people beneath him in the middle and lower class, especially in social programs such as welfare," she said. "The speech that he gave that he doesn't care about the 47 percent and that we feel like we're entitled to things -- I don't see how anyone could vote for him after he says something like that."
The four students have been working hard in the campaign, canvassing and working at phone banks to get out the vote. Madden and a group of other students went to see the president and vice president speak in New Hampshire.
"I thought it was a great experience to hear them speak and actually get to see them," she said. "It didn't change how I was planning on voting, but getting to see the president and hearing him speak was an experience that not everyone has."
Green noted that working on the campaign has broadened his outlook.
"One aspect of the phonebank that was helpful to me was talking to all these people who do have different opinions about how they want to vote," he said, "and allowing all of that to add to my knowledge-base when I'm thinking about voting.
"I think a lot of the work at the Democratic headquarters is trying to convince people how they should vote," Green said. " I think another important aspect is convincing people that they should vote. Too many people say, ‘Oh, my vote's just one vote so it won't matter.' I'd like to change that attitude by convincing more people that voting is a worthwhile thing to do."
"I really like to register voters. When I went canvassing, sometimes I could administer the Voter's Oath, and it was amazing," Phillips said. "I agree with Peter that simply getting people to vote is ultimately more important because the disappointment voters feel when they think their vote doesn't matter is what's damaging the shreds of democracy we have left in this country, so I'd like to fix that."
"It's more than just getting people to vote, it's getting people to be politically active," Madden said. "The vast majority of people in this school have no idea what's going on in the world or in this state and they don't care."
"Although the political world isn't as important to your average citizen or student as the football game or test, I think it's more important than anything," she said.
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at Brattleboro Union High School.
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