Students share voice in Presidential Election

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Phones are ringing, mailboxes are full, social media feeds are crowded—it’s hard to go a day without being reminded to vote. Behind many of the calls, postcards, and Instagram posts are teens. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, over 200 million Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election. These teens are among the 130 million who will not be eligible.

In total, PHS and MHS have over 900 students. Only 36 PHS students and two MHS students will be 18 or older by Election Day, according to an email from counseling office registrar Ellen Fraser. Despite the vast majority of students being ineligible to vote, many remain active in the election. They refuse to let their ineligibility stifle their voices.

“[Junior Joyce Stern and I] can’t vote, so we [thought], ‘Let’s at least try and make some sort of difference,’” junior Izzy Rosselli said. “So then we went to Teens4Biden.”

Teens4Biden is a student-lead political activism club at PHS. In the months leading up to the election, club members have written postcards and made calls to registered voters in swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan, making only one request of their recipients: that they vote.

“This upcoming election is super important, and I wanted to provide a space for students like me who can’t vote to still make an impact on the election, make a difference, and perhaps convince other people to vote,” said senior and Teens4Biden club co-President Audrey Edel.

Junior Joyce Stern said that their messages are non-partisan; despite the club name, the postcards only encourage the act of voting, and endorse neither candidate.

“Encouraging people to vote is more successful than [telling them] ‘vote for this person’ in a letter,” Edel said.

“When we call in, there’s a large variety of hardcore Trump supporters [and] very strong Biden supporters,” Edel said. “And then there’s a good mix of the undecided. As a phone bank caller, [it is] very important that you say the right things and really encourage them from the bottom of your heart to go out and vote.”

On Monday, Oct. 19, PHS students were invited to participate in an election of their own.

Social studies teacher David Keller organized the schoolwide mock election, a PHS tradition. The ballot featured a vote on the presidency, Piedmont City Council members, PUSD school board members, and a number of California state propositions. Attached were resources for students to educate themselves on the policies.

Results from the mock election will be available Nov. 4.

Keller said that he is also actively encouraging student involvement in the presidential election.

All civics students have registered to vote, even those who won’t be eligible this election season, he said.

“If students are interested in being poll monitors—if they want to ensure that there’s not fraud or poll intimidation—I’m trying to organize some students to do poll monitoring,” Keller said.

In keeping with past election years, Keller also invited his civics students to a virtual watch party of the first presidential debate.

“Ten minutes into the segment, I was regretting having students watch that debate,” Keller said. “It was so bad.”

Keller is not the only teacher talking about the election at school. According to a TPH survey of 137 PHS and MHS students, 77.4 percent said at least one of their teachers is talking about the election in class.

As for students, 23.5 percent are involved in political clubs at school, according to the TPH survey. These clubs include Teens4Biden, Junior States of America, Speech & Debate Club, Political-Left Discussion Club (PLDC), Diversity Club, Green Club, and Waluigi Appreciation Club.

“We don’t want to attack anyone and we don’t want to associate ourselves with liberalism,” PLDC president Dante Ruberto said. “We want to get people of varying ideologies in the club. We want people to come to our club to debate, because at the end of the day we’re existing to work out these issues and talk about them.”

According to the TPH survey, 39.8 percent of students believe that the voting age should be lowered and 39.1 percent do not. 21.1 percent answered “Maybe.”

“Of course, I would want it lowered, and I’d want to have faith in people my age who could vote,” Edel said.

But if the voting age is lowered, Edel said that there is the possibility that younger voters will not be able to make an educated decision.

“But then I think of the probably hundreds or tens of thousands of people who are nowhere close to [as] educated [as] some 17 year olds I know, and are voting,” Edel said.

“If you’re aiming for a perfect direct democracy, then sure, you could lower the voting age,” Ruberto said. “I think in the United States that kind of doesn’t really matter because the vote doesn’t really count for anything. Lobbying gets in the way.”

There are definitely arguments for both sides, Edel said.

“Where does the responsibility of helping shape your nation fall?” Edel said.

When Edel started Teens4Biden Club with seniors Laney Tellegen and Toshi Troyer this August, their primary goal was to encourage eligible voters to vote in the presidential election.

“I’m very proud of my classmates, the underclassmen, and just everyone who showed up and did something because it’s easy to post on Instagram and [online], but do you talk the talk, and then walk the walk?” Edel said.

After the ballots have been cast, Edel said that Teens4Biden will continue its work in political activism.

“There could be a lot of wildcards in the next month, and nobody knows what’s [going to] happen,” Edel said. “I think we’re trying to just focus on the present and just do everything we can in the moment.”

Nine days before election day, on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m., Teens4Biden hosted Bay Area for Biden, a virtual event featuring presentations from local politicians and activists.

“We want to create a unifying event for Piedmont and other people from the Bay Area [to] join and show our support for the Biden-Harris campaign,” Edel said.

Even within the PLDC, Ruberto said that members have varying political beliefs, including some conservative members. He asked PLDC members about their general opinions of the presidential election in one of their recent meetings.

“The majority of people said, ‘We dislike Donald Trump, and we dislike Joe Biden less,’” Ruberto said.

Ruberto said that PLDC is considering handing out supplies and literature to voters in Piedmont on Election Day. However, PLDC is not a political organization and some members do not believe in electorialism.

“It’s easy to say ‘both candidates are bad, who cares?’” Edel said. “The danger of that is you won’t be affected by either, and you won’t be affected by Trump, because we are privileged. A good amount of people in Piedmont wouldn’t be affected by another four years of Trump, but it’s important to empathize and have compassion, [because] so many other people will.”