Bill Clinton was president when most Centre County area high school seniors were born in 1997 or 1998.
About 18 years later, they’re now first-time voters in a presidential election that still has a Clinton connection.
It was a process they said they knew little about, but were given some insight to the election process in classes like government and history.
They also said it prepared them for the Pennsylvania primaries Tuesday, which they wanted to participate in, not just for the experience, but because of civic responsibility. They described it as a relatively informal process, but one they’re urging their peers to be a part of.
I’m thankful that as an American I have the opportunity to vote and have my voice heard through that vote. I also see being a voter as an important way to stay involved in the government as a young person. ... being a voter is just another part of being a responsible and engaged citizen in my community
State High senior
“I’m thankful that as an American I have the opportunity to vote and have my voice heard through that vote,” State High senior Milan Liu, 18, said. “I also see being a voter as an important way to stay involved in the government as a young person. I know many of my peers won’t vote, and perhaps I feel a bit of an obligation to exercise my right to vote when they won’t. In the end, it boils down to this: being a voter is just another part of being a responsible and engaged citizen in my community.”
Liu is a student of State High social studies teacher Andy Merritt, who, students said, provided knowledge about the election process.
Classmate Chris Adams said they explored the delegate system and voting process for primary and national elections.
“(It) provided an in-depth understanding of the voting and election process,” Adams said. “An emphasis on understanding the election process was apparent within class.”
But election education also happened outside of class.
Students said they consulted Merritt about which party to register with and which candidate to vote for. Adams said he wasn’t steered in a specific direction, but rather received guidance to help “determine our own beliefs.”
Election information in the classroom at Penns Valley Area High School was similar.
“We learned about voting and the process, and what we needed to do to be eligible for the (primaries),” senior Corby Woodring said. “It also went beyond just having the right to vote, but the importance of it.”
Election polls opened 7 a.m. Tuesday
The 18-year-old headed to his Potter Township polling location at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
“I think I was the first voter this morning (Tuesday),” Woodring said.
With concern about Second Amendment rights and national security, Woodring said he cast his ballot for Donald Trump.
“I just feel like there isn’t a perfect candidate, but he’s the best one for me because of some of my views,” he said. “I’m especially interested in the Second Amendment and securing that right. Where we’re headed now, I feel like the Second Amendment is threatened, and (I) think he’s the best to protect those rights. I’m also interested in the best for our military and strong national security, which I think he’s been most proactive campaigning with.”
The CDT spoke with eight Centre County area high school seniors who all had different beliefs and reasons for voting. Their main reason for voting was to help shape the future.
“We should value the opinions of our elders, but we’re moving into the future of the workforce, and I think opinions from people our age should be seen too,” Penns Valley senior and registered Democrat Emily Batdorf, 18, said. “We’re the ones who will face the outcomes of the decision.”
And the push to get others to be a part of the voting process is a simple one, the students said: “to help be a part of the change you want to see,” Penns Valley senior and registered Republican Jeremy Shawley said.
If you want change, I think you should vote. It’s a right you have, and if you want to be involved in political discussion you need to be involved in voting. I look at it as a privilege, a right and a responsibly
Jeremy Shawley, Penns Valley Area senior
“There are a lot of complaints about things, especially with young people who I don’t think are well represented at the polls, but there are a lot who don’t vote,” Shawley said. “If you want change, I think you should vote. It’s a right you have, and if you want to be involved in political discussion you need to be involved in voting. I look at it as a privilege, a right and a responsibly.”
▪ State High senior Chris Adams, Republican, Ted Cruz
“I’m a registered Republican. Despite leaning towards liberal social policy, I support the traditionally conservative policies towards the economy, including lower taxation — when economic conditions are proper — and lower levels of federal spending. Also, I believe in smaller government with less regulation on business and industry, coupled with free trade. ... Voting for Ted Cruz, I believe any presidential candidate must understand how to mobilize our existing system for the betterment of America. As a United States senator from Texas, Mr. Cruz’s exposure to the system represents experience, placing him in a position to implement fiscal policy needed to help our country. Furthermore, Mr. Cruz established a tough stance on foreign policy, promising to fiercely defend our national interests and allies. Our nation requires change, and I assert that Ted Cruz is the man most capable of enacting change. Being a voter allows an individual to exploit the linkage institutions that connect the average citizen to our government. In other words, the vote permits an individual to become connected to the political system. Foreign policy and the economy are my main concerns with regards to the policy moving forward, especially our economy. A strong economy opens the doors to the general improvement of the status of the nation.”
▪ State High senior James Graef, Democrat, Bernie Sanders
“I am registered as a Democrat because I believe inclusion, diversity and support for the poor make for a better society. My most critical issues are climate change and transportation (and) infrastructure. Climate change is an issue, which influences or will influence everyone and is causing irreversible damage. I am very interested in urban design and plan to have a career relating to it, so I know the benefits of public transit expansion and infrastructure maintenance. The Democratic Party, especially Bernie Sanders, supports increased attention to climate change and infrastructure. I voted for Bernie Sanders. Many people think young people are voting for Bernie because he is in favor of free college and legalized marijuana. Although I agree with these positions and think they are important issues, I am more concerned with other issues, especially Citizens United. To complete crucial legislation on climate change and other issues, politicians cannot be in the pocket of big businesses like oil companies. Bernie has consistently voted in support of environmental protection and protection of citizens with low socioeconomic status, both examples of legislation which might be harder to pass with businesses influencing politicians’ decisions.”
▪ State High senior Milan Liu, Democrat, Bernie Sanders
“Ultimately, politics is a game. I know that Bernie’s chances of winning the nomination are small compared to Hillary’s, and that Hillary is a more moderate and reasonable choice for many voters. However, I truly believe in what Bernie stands for: reducing income inequality, reforming campaign finance laws, fighting for affordable college and universal health care, protecting women’s rights, and promoting racial equality among other issues. I think it’s important to vote with your heart, and whether Bernie wins the primary or not, I hope my vote — and others’ votes for him — send a message about what our priorities for this country are, and I hope that can help steer the nominee in that direction. As a young voter, I’m particularly concerned with issues such as education and college tuition. It’s really important to me that all young people have access to the same opportunities as I do: access to a quality primary and secondary education, and the ability to attend an affordable college or university, regardless of where they live or how much their families make. As a young woman, I’m also particularly concerned about electing candidates who will protect and fight for women’s rights. Women deserve equal pay for equal work, and I strongly believe that men in our government have no right to tell women what to do with their bodies. Issues such as abortion are individual and personal decisions; if someone doesn’t support abortion, they can choose not to have one, but making that decision for anyone else is not OK.”