2022 Midterms: but not the kind you might be thinking of

Features Opinion

For many students in the KO community, the only obstacle in the way of making it to winter break is midterms. While these exams are certainly important, they aren’t the only midterms that should be on our minds. On Nov. 8, the United States held their 2022 midterm elections. 

These elections, which determined seats in the House of Representatives, Senate, and many local races have a major impact on the workings of American government, and yet, to those in our community not yet of voting age, it may have seemed like a regular Tuesday.
The startling trend of low voter turnout among young people, as described in an analysis of the 2020 presidential election, titled “Half of Youth Voted in 2020…”, published by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, demonstrates the need for academic institutions to encourage political participation among their students.

Despite much of the student body at KO being too young to vote, members of the faculty recognize the importance of fostering civic engagement early on. In this effort, history Department Chair and teacher David Baker spoke about the significance of election day during that Tuesday’s assembly. “I think as both an educator and particularly as a history educator, it’s really important for students to know what’s going on and be aware of what the midterms actually are and why they matter,” he shared. “It just seemed timely and important, and we should enjoy the right or privilege, depending on how you look at it, to have a say about how our government runs.” 

Mr. Baker’s message, which has been echoed by many throughout the country recently, seemed to reach a much wider audience in the most recent election resulting in a surge of voters ages 18-29. Political science teacher Ted Levine attributed this influx to a number of factors. In addition to dissatisfaction with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and alarming trends in politics, like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Mr. Levine cited intensely concerted efforts led by parties to connect with young voters. It seems as though politicians are now realizing that this demographic is an “untapped resource” they can use to win races. 

Although the numbers were small, there were KO students who voted in this year’s midterms. Senior Chase Fountain who voted at the West Hartford Town Hall shared his experience. “It was super unorganized and the volunteers weren’t very helpful,” he said. “Even though I only checked a couple of boxes, which took a matter of seconds, I had to wait in line for close to 45 minutes.” 

Chase added that the lengthy and unorganized process was an annoyance and he could understand how it would deter other young voters. While Chase didn’t have a particularly good experience as a first-time voter, he was able to benefit from Connecticut legislation that enables election day voter registration. The legislation, which was passed in 2012, makes voting accessible to a wider range of people and encourages political participation. 

Unlike the experience Chase had, senior Mac Louis reported that his first-time voting experience at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford was painless. “I thought it was a pretty smooth and easy process,” he said. “I didn’t have to wait at all, and the only thing I had some trouble with was not knowing how to fill in the bubbles on the ballot, but my dad was there to help me with that. They were out of ‘I voted’ stickers when I went, which was disappointing.” 

To the members of the KO community who aren’t old enough to vote yet, it may feel as though their voices aren’t heard or they can’t make change within the government until they can get to the polls themselves. However, there are many other ways that young people can get involved politically. Mr. Baker and Mr. Levine shared ideas such as volunteering at polling locations, attending town and board of education meetings, joining advocacy groups that are involved politically, and interning in political offices. 

While all of these opportunities are great ways to introduce politics to young people, making informed decisions is at the heart of political participation. Mr. Baker stressed the importance of knowing the issues rather than casting a vote blindly. “Young people should be learning about the candidates, about what their agendas are and how they want to make our country better,” he said. “After learning from as many parties or people as you can, then you can make an informed decision.” 

At a time like this, when politics are no longer reserved for adults to discuss at the dinner table, schools, like KO, have an obligation to cultivate civic engagement in their students in order to create a generation that is politically literate and active.