Since the advent of the voting system we know today, there has been a consistent problem in the form of people abstaining from voting. In both primary and general elections for all roles, thousands, even millions, of eligible voters miss out on the opportunity to make their choice matter. A large portion of those voters is young people, especially those who are only recently eligible to vote.
According to The Best Colleges, “Unfortunately, not all who can vote will, meaning that fewer young people get to directly influence issues that might affect their lives for years to come.” Topics like college tuition laws, federal job programs, inclusivity, and equal rights have the potential to be completely decided on by people who they will have no effect on in five years.
This statement is corroborated by Virginia State Delegate Danica Roem, who believes priorities should be future-focused, and that young people can effectively influence elections. Del. Roem represents Virginia’s 13th District, of Manassas Park and a portion of Prince William county, including Haymarket. She covered Battlefield for nine years at the Gainesville Times and stays close to Battlefield as a State Delegate. She relies on “students reaching out to me in the first place and recent graduates of Battlefield and 18-year-old seniors at Battlefield to be a part of engaging with their elected representation.”
Del. Roem added that “I need to hear from people at Battlefield about issues that are important to them otherwise I’m just left to make my best guess as to what’s important to them as opposed to knowing for sure what it is that the students at Battlefield expect and need from their delegate.” It is crucial that young people vote and influence the results that will benefit them. If older generations control election results, the policies and representation will skew older, often becoming irrelevant to a majority of the population.
Schools like Battlefield can have a surprising effect on local elections, with many students 18 or older, or able to vote through Virginia laws that allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be eligible to vote by the general election. One of these students is Cameron Cheeks, a junior at Battlefield, who plans to vote in the primary while 17, and in the general election shortly after his eighteenth birthday. “I believe it’s important to be able to vote as soon as possible. Voting is very important and often taken for granted and having younger people gain the experience of voting early will hopefully make them want to continue voting in the future.”
Cameron, along with many other teenagers, understands the importance of each vote.”I do think my vote matters even if it’s just one vote it can be the deciding vote between who is elected and who isn’t.” In various elections nationwide, on local levels, and further up, elections have been decided by a few votes. People tend to think that if their vote is not the seemingly popular choice, it is not worth it to vote at all. But, small numbers of voters can determine the results of big elections.
Del. Roem spoke of a Battlefield student in 2017, who was seventeen at the time, telling her that she had voted for her in the 13th District’s Democratic Primary for the Virginia House of Delegates. “I won that primary by 498 votes,” Said Roem. She continued on to say that when every single vote is counted, a single vote like that student’s was just as important as everyone else’s. This can translate to larger elections, like the General Election later that year for the House of Delegates seat, which Roem went on to win. “Her vote as a seventeen-year-old was just as important as theirs [everyone else],” Said Del. Roem.
The access to free and fair elections is seen as a pillar of democracy, and a crucial principle in America’s governing systems. Through registering to vote as early as possible and taking the opportunity to vote, young people can shape the legislation that will affect their lives for years.