High schoolers vote for first time in midterm election

A handful of seniors voted for the first time in the midterm elections, contributing to record-setting numbers of young voter turnout.

Rhys Hals '23 and Imogen Sharif '23

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, eligible members of the class of 2023 hit the polls as first time voters. Both locally and nationally the effects of young voter turn out are being seen as a shift happens.

This midterm saw the second highest turnout of young people in the last thirty years, voters ages 18-29 making up 12 percent of the vote. These statistics were reflected locally, at polling places within the WSSD district.

Greeters at CADES, a polling place for residents living in southern Swarthmore, reported a large turnout of college aged students, presumably Swarthmore students, while Nether Providence Elementary School polling place greeters saw a larger turnout of assumed high school students and first time voters.

“A lot of young voters…especially for it not being a presidential election. For a midterm, to have that many voters coming out is very high,” a Democratic greeter at NPE said. “And we’ve been hearing that all over the county… You can tell when people go in and sign the book that they’re new voters.”

This election was hotly contested, especially in Pennsylvania which has historically been a swing state. The greeters, who stand outside the buildings, handing out sample ballots for their party, observed that almost all voters came knowing who they intended to vote for.

“People come knowing who they’re voting for…nobody even wants our literature,” said a Republican poll greeter at NPE.

At both NPE and Strath Haven Middle School, greeters noticed gender demographics. They reported seeing more young female voters than young males.

“I’ve noticed an uptick in young women voting over the past couple years,” a greeter at SHMS said.

According to a study from Harvard, up ten percentage points from a decade ago, more young Americans are likely to be politcally engaged than ever. At Strath Haven High School, social studies teachers work with students every year to expand their perspectives and create well formatted ideas. The seniors take classes covering philosophy from Plato and Socrates to modern political parties. 

Part of the seniors’ curriculum is on American government and how American politics works, including elections. Social studies teacher Mr. TJ Adams emphasizes the importance of young voters in elections, believing that the future of American politics should actively participate in democracy.

“I think its important that young people vote, for the same reason why I think its important for everybody to vote,” said Adams. “But from the perspective of young people, if they are inheriting a local community, a nation, and a country they should be invested in it and one way of being invested in the future is voting,” he said.

Social Studies teacher Mrs. Alissa Harvey  agrees with Adams.

“I think its really important to galvanize young voters so that they feel represented with a lot of issues that they feel strongly about,” Harvey said.

To senior Chelsea Wen, who voted for the first time on Nov. 8, these issues are women’s reproductive rights and gun control. Wen has Adams third block, and was further encouraged to participate in the election.

“He showed the campaign ads for them…and explained whether they were Republican or Democrat,” she said. “I was going to vote anyways, but it was helpful to see the contrast in campaign ads.”

To prepare to vote fully informed, Wen did research outside of Adams’s class.

“I pulled up a mock ballot on the internet with all the candidates on it and researched based on that,” Wen said.

Wen didn’t face any complications when voting, but was surprised by the voting method.

“I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I thought it was going to be online, because when I was younger I would go with my parents and it was electronic, but it was paper.”

“It was exciting to have my input on who’s going be the next U.S. Senator,” she said.*