Are Massachusetts’ young people ready to vote?

By Ina Joseph
BU News Service

BOSTON โ€” In past elections, researchers and pundits have found that young people stay away from the polls. All eyes are on this election to see if the trend changes. But what about the generation right behind the millennials? Will they be prepared to vote when their time comes?

Interviews with Boston-area high school students revealed that while some felt that they have little-to-no information besides the fact that voting is important, others have taken it upon themselves to learn about the candidates and their respective policies.

Juan Soto, a 17-year-old student from Dorchester, said he thinks he will learn more about elections of his own volition in college. Contrarily, 15-year-old Timothy P. from Newton, said he is already “pretty informed” about elections and feels he’ll definitely be ready to vote once he turns 18.

“I felt that it was important to know who was running, who was in control of the government, [so] I decided to find out,” Timothy said of the midterm race.

Other students also choose to stay informed despite the level at which the elections are covered in school.

“I think it’s an important process in the democracy and [it’s] important in the functioning of our communities,” said 15-year-old Ja’den Fergus from Boston Latin Academy, who said he gets the majority of his political values from his family.

While he knows a bit about the elections (he rated himself a 2 to 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 when asked how informed he was about the electoral process), he wishes his school informed students about the ballot questions, “what they are, what they do, or who benefits from them.”

Libby James and Gabriel Lubbock, two Massachusetts natives and high school graduates who now attend Boston University, also reflect the variance of voting awareness among Massachusetts students.

“The first time I ever voted was in school committee right after I turned 18, but if I was not motivated to vote, there were definitely other motivations as well from teachers and parents,”ย James, a Westwood High School graduate, said.

“[My high school] definitely encouraged us to vote, in that they would run mock [elections] and have little ballot boxes, … and we would vote within our school,” James said. “[But] they definitely didn’t talk about political sides either way, about what the implications of voting either way [were].”

She also mentioned a lack of emphasis on elections besides the presidential election. Any information on local or school elections James acquired on her own.

Similarly, Lubbock, who attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, also believed his high school lacked local election education. He said he learned about his civic duty more-so from his family than from the classroom.

“My parents have been very excited about me voting, they took me voting a lot [and would] take me to the polling place. It’s something that’s very important to my family,” Lubbock said. “I felt ready to vote before I got into high school. … I wouldn’t say class or high school impacted it that much.”

Besides spending no more than “three to four weeks” on general information surrounding the importance of civic duty, Gabriel said gaining a true understanding of the elections and how to participate in them depended on which teacher you had.

“I remember a specific teacher, Mr. Kells, who was very interested in making sure we were civically minded. He saw his history class and the main purpose of his history class to actually get the student able to participate in a democracy,” said Gabriel. “I think because of him I would’ve been ready, but I think if I had had another teacher, it might not have happened.”

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