Lane Students Register and Vote

By Esther Babawande, Reporter

This year, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr., a record number of 1,443,261 Illinoisans registered to vote for the primary and Lane students were among the number. 156 Lane seniors and juniors registered to vote for the  presidential election at the social science department’s computer lab after school and during lunch periods, according to Ms. Caracci, APUSH and AP US Government teacher.  

   “Oh it has been a fun race,” Caracci said. “ I just love following it and in my class we talk about the candidates almost every day. [We talk about] things that are happening in the media and on twitter.”  

   Caracci and many other Lane teachers came together last spring,when there was an impending run-off election for Chicago mayor between Rahm Emanuel & Chuy Garcia, with the idea to have Lane students register to vote in school. They held registration after school and during lunch periods this year. The feedback has been positive.

   “Students love it. Registering isn’t that difficult, but our way is much easier. They get to do it at school with their friends. We plan to do it every year from now on,” Caracci said.  

    Mrs. Sebestyen, Law in American Society teacher, said this is an important way for students to be a part of the voting process.

   “I want students to know that they are not just citizens that pay taxes, and I hope that this encourages them to be better citizens,” Sebestyen said.  

  These teachers understand how it feels to want to have their voices heard. Sebestyen and Caracci both registered to vote when they were 18.

  However,  Mrs. Smith, Law in American Society and Contemporary US History teacher, voted later in her life when she felt more in tune with the issues.

    “I voted in my 20s. I turned 18 my senior year of high school and went to college and I guess I could have voted absentee, but I really wasn’t that civic-minded at that point and I didn’t take the time to know the issues,” Smith said.  Smith encourages students to understand how everything in our society is managed in the government before voting.

     According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, young people had the lowest voter turnout in the 1990s, but recently during the 2008 and 2012 elections, there has been increased voter turnout in the millennial generation. The 2008 young voter turnout (18-24) was up 12.4% compared to  voter turnout in 2000.  

     “I see a definite difference between this generation and my generation. My generation was not as politically active at this age as students are now,” Smith said.  According to US Census Data, even though voter turnout increased for millennials (18-33-year-olds), Generation Xers (34-54-year-olds) still surpassed millennials in percentage voter turnout.  Screen shot 2016-04-12 at 11.56.30 AMUS Census Data Table on Voter Turnout by age groups from 1996-2012, shows how voter turnout  for young adults has increased over the years; and millenial turnout is higher.
US Census Data Table and Graph on Voter Turnout by age groups from 1996-2012, shows how voter turnout for young adults has increased over the years; and millennial turnout is higher.




 “As you grow you start to see the effects of your votes and why it is important to participate in your community,” Caracci said. “My experience has changed. I am more interested in [voting] because of what I personally do for a living.”

   If students have not registered to vote yet, it is not too late. Although voting in the primary ended on March 15, there are still options for voters to vote for the General Election.  

    “Actually, Illinois has same day registration, so technically you could register to vote the day of the election,” Sebestyen said. “Some of my students, who are currently 17, registered to vote if they will turn 18 by the time of the General Election.”

    According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Grace Period Registration and Voting allows Illinois residents to register and vote in the same day at their local election authority. This starts 27 days prior to the election and continues all the way up to the election day.

   Smith keeps a stack of voter registration cards and selective service cards (draft cards) in her file cabinet for all of her 18 year old students.

   Kamil Lungu, Div. 665, voted early for the primary in October, and he believes that not taking advantage of the American freedom to vote leaders into office, puts all the efforts of generations before us to vain. 

Bachrach is shown above voting for the presidential election  primary at her local polling place.
                                                                         Melissa Bachrach
Bachrach is shown above voting for the presidential election primary at her local polling place.

   “People need to understand that we have fought so long to get the vote. We fought for women’s suffrage, suffrage for African Americans, and suffrage for the young, in order to increase the voting base, and I feel it is so disrespectful for someone to refuse to vote,” Lungu said.

    When it comes down to it, it is a civic duty as Americans to vote. Smith holds a similar sentiments as Lungu when it comes to voting.

   Smith insists to her students that not voting is to their disadvantage for multiple reasons.        

  “[They] don’t exist in a bubble; one day my students will be the ones taking control of their world, and I want them to be prepared in life,” Smith said.  Take an active role [because] people have the power to make change.”

   Jerry Zhu, Div. 679, holds a contrasting view to this position. Zhu voted in February and although he describes voting as pushing his voice forward; he does not hold those who don’t push their voice forward as disadvantaged.

   “They are not at a disadvantage, they just do not have the opportunity to have their voice heard,” Zhu said.

   For some voters, letting their voices be heard has been encouraged by the candidates running this year. One voice that has been heard and debated over lately, belongs to presidential republican candidate, Donald Trump, or as Sebestyen calls him, Donald Drumpf.

    “I pinch myself every time he’s talking cause I can’t believe he’s an actual candidate,” Sebestyen said. The fact that Donald Trump is one of the leading candidates for the Republican nominations has been discussed almost everywhere since his rise in the election. People hold different sentiments on Trump. While Marissa Bachrach, Div. 652, has a negative sentiment towards the Republican candidates,  which she devised from her experience watching the debates.  

    “The Republican debates to me are a joke,” Bachrach said. The debates are a prime time for voters to understand the platforms of the candidates. Through the debates, voters can hear each candidate’s platform and their history. Voters get to see if candidates backup what they are proposing. The debates can also become an event filled with mockery, as seen in many Republican debates.

    “ I joke about the Republican debates but in all honesty they really scare me.” Smith said. “Some of the thoughts thrown out there and tactics being done are horrible. Donald Trump resorted to calling people names, and that’s what I teach my four year old that it’s not right to do, and here we have someone going on air campaigning to be president that believes it’s okay to do that,” Smith said.

    While the Republican debates are under criticism, the Democratic debates are critical in their own right for democratic voters.   

  “I think the debates between Bernie and Hillary are very important, [since I am] voting democratic,” Bachrach said.

     Bernie Sanders is a candidate who has received praise and support from many millennials, including Bachrach and Lungu.

   “I’m personally a big Bernie fanatic; like most millennials I feel that he struck a tone with me with his message on income and wealth inequality and the rigged capitalist system. The fact that he is open to new ideas, the fact that he is the first Polish American and first Jewish- American running is also is quite historic and quite impressive. I enjoy his policies, and he is a wholesome person with integrity and is worth my vote,” Lungu said.

   Hillary Clinton, the only female candidate running for the office, is a candidate that Zhu fully supports, despite many of his friends feeling the Bern.

   “I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I believe that she has a very strong platform and furthermore she has a democratic establishment at hand and she can make people compromise because in America today we are really gridlocked.  I believe that we need to bring people together. Hillary can do that,” Zhu said.

   Other candidates who ran and are running for office include Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson and Governor Martin O’Malley. Cruz was dubbed by Lungu as scary and Donald Trump but serious because of his policies and attitude. However, Lungu wishes Kasich had more backing due to the fact that he seemed willing to be bipartisan. Kasich also has his efficiency as Governor of Ohio to add to his reputation.

   Although many people are excited about voting this year, because of the candidates; some people still decide not to vote. For some voters their voice does not count, due to how elections are run. Having the popular vote doesn’t guarantee a candidate becomes president.

    “I’m not sure if the electoral college serves the same purpose now than what the founding fathers made it for. They made it in case the people weren’t educated enough to choose the right president. In this world today, people are educated to vote. I think the whole electoral college system needs to be done away with or tweaked,” Smith said.  

   Young voters who believe their vote is insignificant because of the electoral college can look to local elections for a different system. The popular vote more often than not determines local positions.

    “I am invested in a lot of local elections and with those local elections, every vote counts,” Lungu said. “Everything from judge, circuit judge, state attorney , state representative, state senate — all those offices are up for election, so voting is not just for president and who is going to rule the country.”

   Lungu describes himself as an active citizen and holds politics in high regard.

  “Democracy is not from the top down —  it is from the bottom up,” Lungu said. “We need to organize and make sure our communities are strong and led with efficient and capable leaders. This will build strong communities, which will build strong cities, strong counties, strong states and even a strong nation.”

Lungu beaming after early voting for the presidential election primary at his local precinct
                                                                                 Kamil Lungu
        Lungu beaming after early voting for the presidential election primary at his local precinct