The March for Our Lives protest started at Austin City Hall and stretched down Congress Avenue, ending at the Texas Capitol. Protestors demanded that lawmakers take action to end gun violence in Texas and beyond. (Emily Bellinghausen)
The March for Our Lives protest started at Austin City Hall and stretched down Congress Avenue, ending at the Texas Capitol. Protestors demanded that lawmakers take action to end gun violence in Texas and beyond.

Emily Bellinghausen

The Turnout: Students participate in political process

Students participate in activism, political organizing in place of voter participation

December 12, 2018

Rigged system. Lame candidates. Political gridlock.

These are all reasons why young people say they often do not vote. In the past elections, voter turnout in Texas was in general and especially among young people, very low.

During the 2012 elections, only 46.9 percent of eligible voters had participated, ranking the state at 48th out of 50 states and D.C. During 2016, only about 51.2 percent of eligible voters participated, leaving the state in the same low ranking. During the 2014 midterm election, about 28.6 percent of Texans participated.

In addition to this, national voter turnout for the 18-24 year old demographic tends to garner similarly low numbers. In 2012, 38 percent of eligible voters in the age group voted. During the 2014 midterm election, the percentage more than halved to 15.9 percent. In the 2016 elections, the turnout rate was 39.4 percent.

Senior Michael Garcia, who is a member of the Austin Corps internship program at Akins, said that young people tend to not vote because they feel their vote doesn’t matter.

“Students don’t care because they think that the system is rigged,” Garcia said. “They think that one vote isn’t going to sway anything. They think that even if they do choose, all the candidates suck so it wouldn’t even be worth it and they stop caring.”

Austin Corps is an internship program that takes students from three high schools and teaches them to work in different city offices and how to get citizens involved in politics. Social studies teacher Linda O’Neal, who is the sponsor for Austin Corps, said she wanted to be an example to her students when she decided to run for Austin City Council this year “These internships help us to get real-life experience working with the government,” said Hailey Matteson, senior and Austin Corps intern.

In October, the organization partnered with the League of Women Voters to register eligible Akins seniors to vote. In addition to this, Austin Corps organized a mayoral candidate forum for students and community members to learn about the people looking to be the next leaders of city government.

“All of our events that we do are student planned,” Matteson said. “The mayoral forum was really cool. We got to have candidates come and have students learn about them.”

Senior Jordan Carlisle is registered to vote. He said that he was reluctant to vote because he felt uninformed, but thinks that it is important to do so.

“Everyone needs to vote because if we don’t then it would cause more problems in the long run,” Carlisle said.

Senior and Austin Corps intern Marissa Lugo said that being knowledgeable about politics is essential for newly eligible voters. She said that with knowledge comes a new interest in involvement and voting.

“You can’t really change anything if you don’t have the knowledge to,” Lugo said. ”You begin to get all this knowledge (about) what certain people do, such as the people in city council and the city manager, who actually does more than the mayor.”

This election, Travis County received record-breaking registration numbers. This year’s voter registration numbers were more than double the previous 2014 midterm election…

“The older generation is just getting older,” Evans said. “We’re the new phase of politics and I think it’s really important for us to show that. Whoever shows up to the ballot is who will be in charge.”

Garcia said that he advises new voters to vote for individuals who align with their beliefs and not be blinded by party lines. The “D” or “R” by a candidates name can be deceiving.

“Political parties are like a brand name,” Garcia said. “If one of the opposing candidates are better than the other, go for that one. Try to investigate what their actual point of view is.”

Evans said that voting is a vital power for young people to harness because it dictates their life going forward.

“It’s the future,” Evans said. “The future is in their hands and if they don’t vote then the future is not in their hands.”

Although it is the most direct way we can influence our government, voting is not the only way students can get involved in the political process. Many high school students were stirred into taking action in response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in February.

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Gun Violence

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The Turnout: Students participate in political process

Emily Bellinghausen

Rigged system. Lame candidates. Political gridlock.

These are all reasons why young people say they often do not vote. In the past elections, voter turnout in Texas was in general and especially among young people, very low.

During the 2012 elections, only 46.9 percent of eligible voters had participated, ranking the state at 48th out of 50 states and D.C. During 2016, only about 51.2 percent of eligible voters participated, leaving the state in the same low ranking. During the 2014 midterm election, about 28.6 percent of Texans participated.

In addition to this, national voter turnout for the 18-24 year old demographic tends to garner similarly low numbers. In 2012, 38 percent of eligible voters in the age group voted. During the 2014 midterm election, the percentage more than halved to 15.9 percent. In the 2016 elections, the turnout rate was 39.4 percent.

Senior Michael Garcia, who is a member of the Austin Corps internship program at Akins, said that young people tend to not vote because they feel their vote doesn’t matter.

“Students don’t care because they think that the system is rigged,” Garcia said. “They think that one vote isn’t going to sway anything. They think that even if they do choose, all the candidates suck so it wouldn’t even be worth it and they stop caring.”

Austin Corps is an internship program that takes students from three high schools and teaches them to work in different city offices and how to get citizens involved in politics. Social studies teacher Linda O’Neal, who is the sponsor for Austin Corps, said she wanted to be an example to her students when she decided to run for Austin City Council this year “These internships help us to get real-life experience working with the government,” said Hailey Matteson, senior and Austin Corps intern.

In October, the organization partnered with the League of Women Voters to register eligible Akins seniors to vote. In addition to this, Austin Corps organized a mayoral candidate forum for students and community members to learn about the people looking to be the next leaders of city government.

“All of our events that we do are student planned,” Matteson said. “The mayoral forum was really cool. We got to have candidates come and have students learn about them.”

Senior Jordan Carlisle is registered to vote. He said that he was reluctant to vote because he felt uninformed, but thinks that it is important to do so.

“Everyone needs to vote because if we don’t then it would cause more problems in the long run,” Carlisle said.

Senior and Austin Corps intern Marissa Lugo said that being knowledgeable about politics is essential for newly eligible voters. She said that with knowledge comes a new interest in involvement and voting.

“You can’t really change anything if you don’t have the knowledge to,” Lugo said. ”You begin to get all this knowledge (about) what certain people do, such as the people in city council and the city manager, who actually does more than the mayor.”

This election, Travis County received record-breaking registration numbers. This year’s voter registration numbers were more than double the previous 2014 midterm election…

“The older generation is just getting older,” Evans said. “We’re the new phase of politics and I think it’s really important for us to show that. Whoever shows up to the ballot is who will be in charge.”

Garcia said that he advises new voters to vote for individuals who align with their beliefs and not be blinded by party lines. The “D” or “R” by a candidates name can be deceiving.

“Political parties are like a brand name,” Garcia said. “If one of the opposing candidates are better than the other, go for that one. Try to investigate what their actual point of view is.”

Evans said that voting is a vital power for young people to harness because it dictates their life going forward.

“It’s the future,” Evans said. “The future is in their hands and if they don’t vote then the future is not in their hands.”

Although it is the most direct way we can influence our government, voting is not the only way students can get involved in the political process. Many high school students were stirred into taking action in response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in February.

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DACA

Many school-aged students have been stirred to action after the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, and his subsequent actions affecting undocumented students.

In 2017, President Donald Trump planned to get rid of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is an Obama Administration era program that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented children in the United States. It allowed these students to enroll in a college, and legally have jobs which were renewable for a two year period. By getting rid of this program, Trump had nearly jeopardized the lives of over 700,000 undocumented individuals.

Pullquote Photo

The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”

— tweet by Donald Trump

The response was a massive uproar of young people. Not only were lawsuits filed by many organizations, but the citizens themselves, right down to the high school level, were strenuously protesting and finding ways, socially, to show their objection of the Trump Administration in defense of DACA.

All across Texas, just as in protests to gun violence, students walked out of classrooms in order to protest for the protection DREAMers, including at Akins High School. Members of the University of Texas-based University Leadership Initiative, an organization that advocates for undocumented students, were among the college-aged students who led the protests.

College and Career Center Counselor Sarah Simmons said that when she spoke to students about what to do if their DACA protection is lost, she encouraged action.

“We will protest,” Simmons said. “We will vote in politicians who will fight for the rights of vulnerable individuals. We will not remain quiet. We will use the courts in any way possible.”

The cries of the people and the opinions of fellow politicians made Trump’s decision and own opinions wavering and unsteady. Eventually, in April of 2017, the U.S. court ordered the Trump administration to fully reinstate the DACA program. Though the program itself may be in an uncertain and frozen state, its continued presence is due to action on the part of American activists and lawyer.

“For five years, the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), working with allies such as the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Texas Organizing Project, has led the fight to boost compliance with a Texas law that requires every public and private high school in the state to distribute voter registration applications to eligible students at least twice each school year. Enacted in 1985, that law has the potential to make Texas a leader in youth registration and turnout.” – 2018 High School Voter Registration Compliance Report

“Instead, as TCRP’s (Texas Civil Rights Project) research has repeatedly made clear, most recently in a report it published in September 2017 and now in this updated report, compliance by high schools with the law has been abysmal.” – 2018 High School Voter Registration Compliance Report

“At a minimum, therefore, two-thirds of Texas public high schools, with 183,421 seniors, continue to fail to take the first basic step in complying with the high school voter registration law: requesting forms from the Secretary of State. As a result, hundreds of thousands of eligible young voters may be missing the chance to register to vote.” – 2018 High School Voter Registration Compliance-Report

 

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Austin Corps

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The Turnout: Students participate in political process

Emily Bellinghausen

Rigged system. Lame candidates. Political gridlock.

These are all reasons why young people say they often do not vote. In the past elections, voter turnout in Texas was in general and especially among young people, very low.

During the 2012 elections, only 46.9 percent of eligible voters had participated, ranking the state at 48th out of 50 states and D.C. During 2016, only about 51.2 percent of eligible voters participated, leaving the state in the same low ranking. During the 2014 midterm election, about 28.6 percent of Texans participated.

In addition to this, national voter turnout for the 18-24 year old demographic tends to garner similarly low numbers. In 2012, 38 percent of eligible voters in the age group voted. During the 2014 midterm election, the percentage more than halved to 15.9 percent. In the 2016 elections, the turnout rate was 39.4 percent.

Senior Michael Garcia, who is a member of the Austin Corps internship program at Akins, said that young people tend to not vote because they feel their vote doesn’t matter.

“Students don’t care because they think that the system is rigged,” Garcia said. “They think that one vote isn’t going to sway anything. They think that even if they do choose, all the candidates suck so it wouldn’t even be worth it and they stop caring.”

Austin Corps is an internship program that takes students from three high schools and teaches them to work in different city offices and how to get citizens involved in politics. Social studies teacher Linda O’Neal, who is the sponsor for Austin Corps, said she wanted to be an example to her students when she decided to run for Austin City Council this year “These internships help us to get real-life experience working with the government,” said Hailey Matteson, senior and Austin Corps intern.

In October, the organization partnered with the League of Women Voters to register eligible Akins seniors to vote. In addition to this, Austin Corps organized a mayoral candidate forum for students and community members to learn about the people looking to be the next leaders of city government.

“All of our events that we do are student planned,” Matteson said. “The mayoral forum was really cool. We got to have candidates come and have students learn about them.”

Senior Jordan Carlisle is registered to vote. He said that he was reluctant to vote because he felt uninformed, but thinks that it is important to do so.

“Everyone needs to vote because if we don’t then it would cause more problems in the long run,” Carlisle said.

Senior and Austin Corps intern Marissa Lugo said that being knowledgeable about politics is essential for newly eligible voters. She said that with knowledge comes a new interest in involvement and voting.

“You can’t really change anything if you don’t have the knowledge to,” Lugo said. ”You begin to get all this knowledge (about) what certain people do, such as the people in city council and the city manager, who actually does more than the mayor.”

This election, Travis County received record-breaking registration numbers. This year’s voter registration numbers were more than double the previous 2014 midterm election…

“The older generation is just getting older,” Evans said. “We’re the new phase of politics and I think it’s really important for us to show that. Whoever shows up to the ballot is who will be in charge.”

Garcia said that he advises new voters to vote for individuals who align with their beliefs and not be blinded by party lines. The “D” or “R” by a candidates name can be deceiving.

“Political parties are like a brand name,” Garcia said. “If one of the opposing candidates are better than the other, go for that one. Try to investigate what their actual point of view is.”

Evans said that voting is a vital power for young people to harness because it dictates their life going forward.

“It’s the future,” Evans said. “The future is in their hands and if they don’t vote then the future is not in their hands.”

Although it is the most direct way we can influence our government, voting is not the only way students can get involved in the political process. Many high school students were stirred into taking action in response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in February.

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