By Josee Matela
BU News Service
This article was previously published in the Brookline Tab.
BROOKLINE – The youngest voters qualified for the Nov. 6 elections were born in 2000. Since the turn of the millennium, this group has witnessed five presidential elections, five midterm elections and now are eligible to turn in their first midterm ballot.
In the state of Massachusetts, individuals can register to vote as early as their 16th birthday. Once registered, these citizens are placed on a list of pre-registrants. When they turn 18, the minimum age to vote, they are automatically registered into the eligible electorate.
For 16-year-old Brookline High School junior Isa Pennick, the ability to vote can’t come soon enough.
“I just feel like a lot of older people aren’t taking into account that they are setting us up for our future,” she said. “They’re in charge of things until we can actually vote.”
To Pinnick, voting is a citizen’s opportunity to speak out.
“There are so many things on the line right now and with the climate that our country’s in, with Trump being in office, a lot of people are feeling unheard,” she said. “This is a chance for them to feel heard.”
Youth engagement high during Vietnam War
Brookline resident Michael Levin, 69, reminisced about his engagement as a younger voter. Fifty years ago, at the age of 19, he volunteered his time by licking and sealing envelopes for former Sen. Eugene McCarthy in Minnesota.
“A lot of young people were engaged,” he said. “The war in Vietnam was raging and tensions were quite high.”
Levin doesn’t think today’s “risks are quite as high” he said, but the younger electorate could engage to prevent a situation where they “watch their democracy disappear.”
Exploring civic engagement
At Brookline High, students can explore civic engagement through classes and extracurriculars. There are electives on social justice and racial awareness, students said, and they can join clubs such as the Young Republicans and Young Democrats.
Elsa Ha, a 16-year-old junior at Brookline High, is the chairman of the Young Democrats Club, which she said has helped with canvassing, phone banks and voter registration. The six members meet every other week.
“The midterms are crucial,” she said. “The House, the Senate, and the White House are currently Red, and we need to flip that during the midterms.”
Standing outside the polling place at Brookline High’s gymnasium on Election Day, Ann Marie McDonough, a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, held a sign in support of the measure to set patient limits for nurses. Working on the ballot question, she said, she witness more young people getting engaged.
“A lot more young people are trying to understand the issue, understand the candidates, and really get involved,” she said.
Brookline resident Anna Wallack brought her 4-year-old daughter with her to vote this year.
“I wanted her to be a part of this,” she said. “That just by being here and witnessing it, she has the obligation when she can vote.”