Voting into the future

Political activist Izzy Saler ’23 urges students to register to vote and explains the importance of voting.

Graphic by Ilana Zahavy ’24/Staff

Our parents never had intruder drills. Many of them participated in the routine fire drills and tornado drills out of an abundance of caution—in many cases, the drills were nothing more than a chance to get a breath of fresh air. During my second week of kindergarten, I had my very first lockdown drill. That day, I came home and told my mom all about the drill, intertwined between the quips of what happened at recess or the crafts we did. My mom, with a straight face, said, “That sounds like a great day, honey! But you should take those ‘lockdown drills’ seriously.” I never gave it a second thought and continued on with my day—my blissful ignorance juxtaposed with the harsh reality of being a child living in today’s America. My mom, on the other hand, sobbed in secret, asking herself why this was the world we were living in. That drill was less than two years after 20 students aged seven to nine and six other victims were senselessly gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Every year, around November, there is banter in the hallways and between students about the upcoming election. Many jokes and claims like, “I wouldn’t vote even if I could” float around. Despite the informal setting of these comments, they beg serious questions: Why vote? How is my vote going to make a difference? Voting allows for all participating voices to be heard and forces legislators to work on and resolve issues the public deems important while giving everyone fair representation in those solutions. There are a litany of reasons for a member of society to vote. Voting allows for citizen input on the quality and accessibility of education; job opportunities and the monetary compensation from those jobs; changing infrastructure (notice how Montgomery Ave was recently repaved…?); and, importantly, citizen safety. 

After the Parkland shooting in 2018, I was distraught. I was not only saddened for the victims and their families that lost loved ones so prematurely, but also selfishly for myself. I was terrified to realize what the Parkland shooting could mean for me as a student so dependent on the country I lived in. I searched for ways that I could get involved and make a difference, as I was too young to vote. I attended rallies and worked on the fleeting, immediate relief opportunities that always spring up for a month or two after a big news story like Parkland breaks. For more long term action, I interned on Josh Shapiro’s Attorney General reelection campaign. I resonated with Shapiro’s message and knew, based on his record, he puts his money where his mouth is. As the state’s top-cop, he kept Pennsylvania safe for four years, and I knew that he would for another four. 

After Attorney General Shapiro won his campaign, we rejoiced and took a breather, but only for PA. The country was currently under the rule of someone who I deemed an unfit and dangerous leader. All eyes turned to the crucial congress elections. Through the power of voting and public representation, the House of Representatives was able to remain blue and the Senate flipped, leaving the congressional majority to the Democratic party. These were two crucial wins that would boad good news for gun control among other imperative policies for the two years to come. This is the importance of voting. 

Now, as the 2022 election rolls around, several candidates take their positions and announce their hopes of being Pennsylvania’s next Governor. When the results of last Spring’s primaries came out, the Republican nominee was announced—an  extreme right wing conspiracy theorist with little respect for human rights, let alone the principles of the nation. As a student, I am scared. As a Jew, I am scared. As a woman, I am scared. Instead of letting those feelings of fear and anger brew inside of me, I released that energy into my work as a digital intern for the Josh Shapiro for Governor campaign.

Through my work, mainly via social media, I saw how energized many Pennsylvanians are to participate in the upcoming elections—especially high school students. Since January, Students for Shapiro have done an incredible job organizing college campuses across the Commonwealth to spread Shapiro’s message while registering students and young people alike to vote. Over the Summer, I launched and  directed the High Schoolers for Shapiro effort which now has around 20 chapters and over 250 members from all over PA. 

I have gotten to speak with several students, many of whom are not yet voting age, from the most rural to the most metropolitan areas of PA. We all have a shared hope and reason for getting involved. Pennsylvania needs a leader who will protect liberties, freedoms, and human rights. The key in making that a reality is young people. The key is you. 

So you can’t vote in this election, neither can I. But you can still spread the message and educate others on the importance of voting. You can help people register to vote. The five votes you can wressle out of potential voters is just as, if not more,  impactful than your individual vote would be if eligible. 

The importance of voting can not be stressed enough. Seniors over eighteen—register to vote before October 24. When November 8 comes around, find your polling location and march, with your head held high, knowing you will make a difference that day. You may not think your voice is powerful, nor that any change will come of it, but it absolutely will. It is your right. For freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors: do research and pick a candidate that you deem best fit for PA. Spread the word, get involved, and help others register and get to the polls whether it’s through an absentee ballot or at your local polling station. 

You are never too young to have your voice heard. Your voice is valuable, not only in this election, but in every election to come. Maybe one day, your child or your child’s child will come home from school talking about the popsicle stick house they built, rather than the desk they had to crouch under.

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