Your Vote is Your Voice – Turning 18 Before November 6? Register to Vote Now!
Andrew Checchia ‘19
Political participation is fundamental to our American identity — a right fought for over countless years of struggle by marginalized peoples throughout our national history. Few things have been more symbolic or important achievements for civil rights than equal opportunity for participation and representation in government.
Yet, in recent years, the cultural importance of voting in the United States has rapidly declined. Fewer Americans register to vote in each election cycle and even fewer actually head to the polls on election day. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research study on voter turnout, only about fifty-five percent of eligible voters in the United States participated in the most recent presidential election. More drastic still, only sixty-four percent of the voting-age population was even registered to vote in the first place.
Similarly developed countries like Australia, Sweden, and Belgium have voter turnouts of seventy-eight, eighty-two, and eighty-nine percent respectively, all with registered voter bases above or pushing ninety percent. Clearly, governmental reform is necessary to make registering and voting an easier process, but American society desperately needs people who are excited about political participation. For high school students, this is a great chance to start making real changes. The youth change the future, and a large, motivated group of young voters could reinvigorate a stagnant, cynical American population.
Seniors, many of whom turn eighteen before the important 2018 midterm elections, will soon have their first chance to get involved in the political system of our country. Interestingly, there is a little known Texas state law which requires all public high schools to provide eligible voters (mostly seniors) with an opportunity to register to vote. Yet, a survey by the Texas Civil Rights Project found that for the 2016 elections, less than six percent of high schools requested voter registration forms from the Secretary of State in formal compliance with the law. While more schools may have followed the law without formal requests or hosted informal voter registration drives, the education system — particularly in Texas — has not been doing its part to inspire a new generation of active political citizens. For us, changing this culture is a great opportunity to get students involved and invested in the future of our country.
Although Strake Jesuit does not fall under legal obligation to do so, it has a moral imperative to get students interested and ready to participate in politics. While public schools stand accountable to the law, Strake Jesuit, with its proudly Catholic guiding principles, has a religious obligation to encourage faithful citizenship — a concept coined and defined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Quite directly, the bishops declare, “Catholics are called to participate in public life in a manner consistent with the mission of our Lord, a mission that he has called us to share.” You can find the whole document (which goes into significant depth on the nature of the Catholic Church and American politics) here, but Catholic teaching clearly calls all faithful Catholics to be directly and consciously involved in and informed about both local and national politics.
So, for the good of our country and under obligation from its Catholic faith, Strake Jesuit should hold an annual voter registration drive. It would be a great experience for everyone, bringing national discussions to our local community, kick starting important conversations between students and faculty. Political clubs could work together to spread awareness about the importance of political participation and could use the event as a platform to talk about important issues of the day. The event, if promoted and popularized, could act as a pivotal first step in the political lives of all students, bringing our country’s system to our doorstep, truly seeing politics in action. This could eventually cascade into a landslide of newly motivated, actively-political Americans, inspired to cause change and fight for a better future and an even better people, one vote at a time.