Youth need to get involved in local elections

Saturday, March 25, 2017 - 18:54

As a senior at Chugiak High School, I have a fair amount of accurate insight into the actions, passions, and interests of teenagers. And in the weeks leading up to November 8, I was thrilled to see young people catalyzed to civic engagement and community action. I helped my peers register to vote, I saw them attend forums and discussions, and I held countless insightful, enthralling discussions with a generation that is often characterized as indifferent. But when it comes to municipal elections, such youth involvement is often missing. Voters are often less informed about local elections, and voter turnout is generally much lower. This is incredibly unfortunate, because in national elections, our votes hold much less weight. But when it comes to local elections, we have the opportunity to make much more of a difference. That’s why, for the sake of community and democracy, it is essential that young people harness their political power on April 4 and go vote in our municipal elections.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter who young people vote for — the fact that we vote at all can be a powerful tool. Politicians are aware of who they need to target with their policies, and youth are often not included as an influential group. When the youth demographic becomes a more substantial portion of the electorate, politicians will have to turn their attention to issues that may be of more concern to young people, such as education funding, social justice, sustainable development, and economic reform.

Furthermore, young voters tend to vote differently from older generations. We represent the most diverse demographic, reflecting the growth of minority populations in Alaska and the nation. Young people also don’t feel the same ties to the two-party system that our parents do, and we don’t necessarily vote along party lines. Youth voters choose the issues that matter the most to them, regardless of the political agenda.

On April 4, voters in Anchorage will determine the winners for six (out of 11 total) Anchorage Assembly seats. We will give direct input on the best ways to improve our city in the face of the budget crisis, by voting on bond propositions. We will approve or reject a proposal to expand Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Service Area, and we will repeal or leave in place an ordinance that increases the number of taxi permits. And even more importantly for my generation, we will weigh in on Anchorage School Board members. Seats C and D on the Anchorage School District school board are up for election, and students need to make sure their voices are heard in this incredibly relevant issue!

If you’ve never heard of the candidates or the issues, you can go to ballotpedia.org for clear information on the candidates and the propositions. You can also search through the archives of local papers for stories and interviews with candidates.

While Alaskans often have little influence over presidential elections, our local races are completely within our own control. Regardless of your age, race, gender, or ideology, I sincerely hope you decide to exercise your democratic rights on April 4 and cast your ballot to help determine what the future of our city will look like.

Carly Dennis is 18 years old and is a senior at Chugiak High School. She is also a Youth Organizer with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, and a member of the Anchorage Youth Advisory Commission.

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