The author with Anabelle and Chambie Elliot expressing their voices to make a difference. (Image courtesy of Katrina Machetta)
Klein Collins High School

Changing politics one young person at a time

With the upcoming November presidential election, young people in America have become the face of change, volunteering for campaigns and leading petitions and protests to make change for key issues that candidates must address.

Issues range from school funding to gun violence to everything in between. Every policy and law in America will end up affecting the voters in this country, so it is prudent to be knowledgeable about them and the actions political leaders will take for or against each one.

The legal voting age in the United States is eighteen years, so many, if not all, students in high school are under the voting age. This age barrier does not stop young people from making an impact in elections.

Through volunteering with campaigns and actively participating in government change, young people learn more about the policies of candidates. They can also make change through a variety of ways, including phone banking, registering people to vote and going door to door advocating the policies and the benefits of voting for specific candidates or parties.

“Voting is one of the most powerful actions we can take towards changing the United States for the better,” sophomore Chambie Elliot said. “Every single person in this country, no matter age, ethnicity, gender or background, needs to use their voices. People don’t realize what a big difference they have the potential to make.”

Although youth are restrained from voting due to age, they can be found throughout the country volunteering for local, state and national elections contributing their voices in other ways beyond a ballot. Volunteering has no age limit, so many people of all ages are calling voters, visiting voters and informing citizens of the power they play in the election and how every vote counts no matter the size of the election.

“The most significant change is not because of a specific political leader but the movements of the people that pushed for the change. No matter who is leading. It is the movement that really does the work,” Margin Zheng, who serves as the President of the National Youth Rights Association, said. “Even one vote is important. Voting is a very small portion of contributing to democracy.”

Knowing and understanding the platforms and issues that each candidate stands for is important for an individual to become a part of an evolving democracy and to contribute to it in a multitude of forms from TikTok videos to Tweets.

No matter what political party a person stands for, there is a myriad of opportunities that enable people to become involved and to have a voice in government, laws and policies regardless of ethnicity, background or gender. 

“The two most important things in politics are information and participation,” Jeffrey Ladewig, an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said. “Politics means we have to make decisions together. We all may have different passions, ethics, and interests, but I encourage everyone black, white, old, young, to be more accurately informed in our shared governance and shared life to make it better for everyone.”

(Image courtesy of Katrina Machetta)

As the pandemic restricts face to face activities, many virtual activities seem to replace them. But even as the types of activity change, age is no limitation to the endless possibilities for young people.

“Youth rights are human rights, and we are trying to have society recognize that,” Zheng said. “Anything you care about is making way for big things to be changed in this world.”

Statistically, young people are the smallest percentage of voters each year, according to a 2014 voting census.  But through volunteering and being informed, young people can change politics one person at a time.