Northgate seniors cast their first presidential ballots

Presidential election historic, other measures matter


Johnson family

Northgate High School seniors Ella and Shane Johnson, twins who turned 18 on Sept. 16, study the issues and prepare their ballots for the 2020 election, which they will deliver to a Contra Costa County voting drop box.

For the past few months there has been one topic every American citizen has thought about daily: the presidential election. 

The election determines whether incumbent President Donald Trump, a business developer well known for the decade before his presidency as the star of reality show The Apprentice, will serve a second term, or if Joe Biden, former vice president under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 and a longtime Delaware senator, will score a win for the Democrats. 

Many people find this election exciting because of the high stakes and how unpredictable the economy and the political arena have been, especially in the past eight months of the coronavirus pandemic. 

For the 18-year-olds in America, it is exciting for another reason: They get to vote for the first time and it is in a presidential election.

 Caroline Welch, a senior at Northgate High School, gets an opportunity few high school students have — to cast a vote in the election during a presidential year while still a high school student.

“This is the most important election of our lifetime, so I am thrilled that this is my first year voting,” said Welch, who turned 18 on Oct. 11. 

Northgate seniors Ella and Shane Johnson, twins who turned 18 on Sept. 16, are also casting their votes this year. They emphasized the importance of being independent thinkers knowledgeable about all races and ballot issues. 

“One thing that is important about voting is to not let anyone sway your own opinion, even if it is your parents,” Shane Johnson said. “Vote for who or what you think is best. With the propositions, it is important to read both sides to evaluate the pros and cons in order to get the full picture.” 

“I have studied the issues, but I didn’t realize how confusing some of the propositions could be,” Ella Johnson remarked. “Many people who haven’t voted before think of the presidential election and forget about all of the local and state elections as well, but there is a lot more on the ballot than one would realize.” 

Welch and the Johnsons are not alone as young voters. According to statistics, 50 percent of voters in the 18 to 24-year old age group voted in the 2016 November general election, and that turnout is predicted to be larger for this election. The age group of 18-24 year olds is one of the most important age groups in elections. They are influential with their use of social media, and they are the people who have to live with these decisions longer than any other voting age group.

“One of the greatest misconceptions about our generation,” Welch said,  “is that we are apathetic about current events and issues. However I believe that we are actually the most informed, progressive, and open-minded generation in history. “Our generation is also very resilient and we certainly have the power to make an enormous difference in the outcome of this upcoming election if we turn out to vote.”

Welch shared her presidential pick: “Undoubtedly, the most important race is the presidential election and I am supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Not only will people be voting for president, they also face decisions on local and county races ranging from city councils or community college leadership and propositions. One of these propositions could even expand the voting pool. 

California’s Proposition 18 would allow 17-years-olds who will be turning 18 by a November general election to vote in the primary election, usually held in March. Currently, this is the case in 18 states and Washington, D.C. 

If approved by a majority of California voters, this proposition would allow high school seniors to have a greater part in the process of voting, allowing them to be involved in more decisions, such as who will represent the Democratic party in the general election. This proposition shows that the importance of the youth vote is being recognized, and why teenagers should take advantage of their right to vote as much as possible.

COVID-19 has been shaping the way people are voting. This is because voting in person now seems to be a risky option, so many people have been voting by mail and they do not get the opportunity to step into a polling booth.

Shane Johnson, who had not yet delivered his ballot when interviewed on Oct. 13, acknowledged his worries about the risk. “We will not get the whole voting experience of going to a voting poll place since COVID-19 kind of got in the way.  I feel safer doing a drop box rather than go to a poll place,” he said.

Voting is an important part of being an American citizen. It gives people a say in how their country functions and what propositions will be passed. It allows progress to be made. 

“I am excited, albeit a little overwhelmed, to be voting in such a momentous election,” Ella Johnson exclaimed, “and I’ll be proud to turn in my ballot and put on my ‘I voted’ sticker!’ ”