Three teens share why voting matters to them.
Jonah, 18, Wellesley High School
Jonah wants to enter politics someday. In the meantime, he spends his summers working on political campaigns like Seth Moulton’s. He’ll vote on Election Day. “My dad voted early, but it feels more special on that day,” he says.
Why voting matters: “[It’s about supporting] a candidate who embodies the values and ideals that I have for the country and whose emotions and political rhetoric resonate with me. Also, a candidate who shows a character that makes me proud to have them represent me. It’s important to vote every time. In the Massachusetts election, I don’t see an extreme reason to vote or not to vote, but it’s an important civic duty. One of the best things coming out of 2016 is a rise in political engagement. I’ve always been interested in politics, but I’ve had many more friends in school text me: ‘How do I check if I’m registered to vote?’ It’s been really inspiring to see. We need to make sure that we continue to do that even as the years go by, even when we agree with people who represent us. We need to be politically engaged and informed.”
Key issues: “The first one is climate change and global warming, because it will be a bigger concern and it will grow with time. The other thing I’d say is the economy. I feel lucky I don’t have to worry about a job, or an income, but I think it plays such a huge role in everybody’s lives.”
Where he gets the news: “I read Axios. Politico is a big one. And my dad and I read The Wall Street Journal over breakfast.”
Is voting a mitzvah? “I would say yes, absolutely. If you think about it as a good deed, I’d say it absolutely falls in line with the Jewish commandments that we hold. Deuteronomy 16 says, ‘You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.”
What’s next: “I want to take a couple years to do some sort of service like the Armed Forces, the Peace Corps or Teach for America.”
Becca, 17, Lexington High School
Becca isn’t old enough to vote…yet. But she’ll be ready in 2020, and she’s already considering key issues.
Why voting matters: “I think my interest stems from events happening and me realizing that this world is kind of a broken place. There’s a lot of opinions thrown around and opposing sides. The current issues apply to me. They’re not topics of adult conversation. All these terrible incidents have made me become more and more active. As cliche as it sounds, I have a voice and I can make a difference. … The change happens when people band together and help other people. Let’s take women’s rights, for example. If it was simply women campaigning to be treated equally, people wouldn’t pay attention. But because it’s people of both sexes coming together and all gender identities coming together, change can happen.”
Key issues: “Definitely environmental justice, gun control, LGBTQ-plus rights and the systematic oppression of minorities in our country.”
Why these issues are important: “I’m not sure if the shootings have become more prevalent, but it seems that way. I’ve definitely started to keep in the forefront of my mind that you need to be careful and be safe wherever you’re going. I feel like I never know when something could happen. The Parkland shooting really triggered a sense of fear in me. I’m not actively scared when I go to school, but it’s something I think about. And now, the recent shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue makes me consider it every time I walk into the temple. There has been an increase in security at both places. At school, a bunch of doors are locked. You can only get into certain places. At the temple, there’s a police officer standing at the door. They keep doors locked and you have to press a button to buzz in.”
Where she gets the news: “I get my news from The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. I read the Globe and New York Times every day. I check CNN because there’s a lot of national news there, and I try to be really conscious of bias in the media. And I try to combat with right-wing news as well.”
Is voting a mitzvah? “That’s an interesting way to put it, voting as a mitzvah. I think of voting as means to better humanity. I would definitely consider voting to be a mitzvah, and I think religion falls into the category of things that I could be targeted for or discriminated against. If you have an issue with what’s happening in the country, you need to use your voice and do that by voting. If you want to make a change, you need to vote, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Future plans: “I think I’m going to minor in political science, but right now I think I want to be a psychologist.”
Josh, 18, Beaver Country Day School
Josh builds theater sets and has a busy week of plays coming up, so he voted early this year.
Why voting matters: “Voting is important just because there are certain changes I’d like to see and not see, and not voting increases the chances that whatever those changes are won’t be the ones I feel are better.”
Key issues: “[On the Massachusetts ballot], Question 1 was the most widely publicized, with ads and signs in people’s yards. I knew more about that than maybe others. I felt like based on what I’d seen, I had a more secure opinion on 1 versus the others. Question 3, I didn’t see any reason to change what we have now. Business is one of my big interests: what’s happening in the economy, the restructuring of NAFTA.”
Where he gets the news: “Often I go on Google Finance for a mix of articles from different news sources. If I were to go to just one, for breaking news, it’d probably be NBC.”
Is voting a mitzvah? “I would say yes; I haven’t memorized the actual list of mitzvahs, but you’re contributing to your country, community and helping to show an interest, and that could be called a mitzvah.”
Future plans: Applying early decision to the University of Pennsylvania.