Young voters galvanized by midterm election

Students protest at Ingraham High School on March 14, which marked exactly one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. The massacre sparked a nationwide discussion about gun violence and school safety.



Students protest at Ingraham High School on March 14, which marked exactly one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. The massacre sparked a nationwide discussion about gun violence and school safety.

Aliyah Newman, Staff Reporter

History was made across the nation when several trailblazing candidates won coveted spots in American politics. Headed to the Capitol are Muslims, women, and African Americans, who were big winners on Nov. 6. Two Native American women share the distinction of being the first to serve in Congress.  

Closer to home, initiatives on gun regulation laws will give Washington some of the strictest firearms laws in the country. Other ballot measures included increased police training, including a higher standard for use of deadly force and environmental taxes.

While less than one-fourth of Cleveland’s student body can vote, November’s midterm election gave those who were eligible a chance to shape the future of the state. But not being old enough to vote doesn’t stop younger citizens from getting involved in politics.

Junior Andrew Hong is self-described as one of the more politically active students at Cleveland. Since 2016, he has been campaigning and volunteering for the candidates he admires – and may even ask his peers to convince their parents to vote for some of his favorites. 

“I started to try to pay attention to politics … with Bernie Sanders’s campaign,” Hong said. “I got more active in politics right after the Stoneman Douglas shooting in Florida.”

The Valentine’s Day school shooting left 17 students and staff members dead and dozens injured.

Hong is a strong advocate for the new gun control and police training laws, as he believes they directly affect Cleveland and other teens around the state.

“It definitely makes Cleveland safer and Seattle safer and the whole state safer from gun violence,” Hong said. He believes the law enforcement training will prevent more people from being wrongly shot, particularly African-American males.

Mitchell Moss, a junior, also supports the new law enforcement proposal.

“We need have more conflict resolution and less combat training for police officers,” Moss said. “I don’t really trust them much as of right now.” 

Moss agrees that police officers need more de-escalation tactics instead of resorting to pulling their guns, but he does

Junior Mitchell Moss supports more training for police officers.

not like the new possibility for more gun control in Washington state or the country.

“I feel like banning a tool that can be used in multiple, different ways is not fair because there’s a lot of good people out there that do own guns, and I think limiting them isn’t fair,” said Moss. 

Even through differing opinions for political subjects, Hong and Moss agree on the importance of political power in this country, and the value of voting rights. Both juniors are looking forward to voting in the 2020 election and are hoping for a larger young-voter turnout.

Librarian Lee Micklin wants students to get involved and start voting because in her eyes,

Librarian Lee Micklin helped register students to vote.

it affects everyone. Micklin helped to partner Cleveland with the Washington Bus to spread the word on how students can register to vote. The organization aims to increase political participation for young people across the state. 

“If you look at the issues that were on the ballot, every single one of them affects all of us. Be it climate change, be it police justice, be it gun control,” Micklin said. “[The younger generations] are going to be living longer in this world longer than we are, so this is the world that you guys will inherit.”

Micklin made sure the workers from the Washington Bus visited all 12th grade classrooms to create equal access to any students who wanted to vote.

Shanti Knutzen is one senior who became an eligible voter this year. 

“Voting is a responsibility I was excited to have,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to be a part of making things happen.”

She feels that Cleveland helped her understand politics more due to the government focus in her Humanities class this year. 

“I got to learn more about the importance of voting and democracy and everything around the time we voted.”
Knutzen also utilized the Washington Bus support, which helped her and others register or pre-register to vote.

Understanding the importance and relevance of voting can be difficult to young people who haven’t been exposed to the idea. Elections that don’t include a presidential run can seem less significant, but midterms determine many things that affect Cleveland’s population directly. Knutzen knows how voter turnout can make or break the country.

“Deciding who we want to represent us as a city or state in Congress … is extremely important.”