Urban high school seniors register to vote

How many times have you walked down the street when someone asked if you were interested in his or her cause?

If you’re like most students, it’s too many times to count. Students walking through the streets of San Francisco often encounter canvassers who ask if they’re able to vote. And for students over the age of 17, the realization is dawning that this fall they will have the opportunity to change the country.

Turning 18 means that finally, after all these years, students have as much say as their parents, teachers and other adults about important issues and choices.

On Nov. 8, voters in San Francisco will have a number of important decisions to make. Who should be mayor of San Francisco? And district attorney? Should funds be allocated for modernizing and repairing public schools? And for repairing and improving streets and bike paths?

If recent elections are any indication, the youth vote counts more than ever. Time Magazine called 2008 “The Year of the Youth Vote,” and Obama’s success has been attributed in large part to his ability to move young people to get their ballots in.

According to the Pew Research Center for People & the Press, in the last presidential election, 66 percent of those under 30 years of age voted for Barack Obama, “making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.” Clearly, young voters can make a difference.

Urban student Duncan Magidson (’12) will be eligible to vote this fall, and feels obligated to do so.

“I’ve been politically active for a long time,” said Magidson, who has worked for state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), attended a youth mayoral forum, and led Urban’s Political Awareness and Civic Engagement (PACE) club. “Having the opportunity to vote feels redeeming and rewarding,” he added.

However, with opportunity comes responsibility. Clara Hendrickson (’12) explained how she hopes to become more informed about the issues presented in the upcoming election.

“I’m more familiar with international issues, but now that I can vote, I am eager to learn more about local politics,” said Hendrickson. “I think it’s huge to have the right and I feel that it’s a privilege … and an obligation.”

It’s easy to take the right to vote for granted. But the recent uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries are powerful reminders that the opportunity to participate in government is a privilege worth defending.

LeRoy Votto, Urban history teacher, recalls that the first time he voted was when he was 21 due to the law at the time. “It was wrong to be able to be drafted into the army before we were able to vote,” he said. He added that he has “never missed voting in an election.”

To find out about what is on the ballot on Nov. 8, go to the City and County of San Francisco Department of Elections’ website: http://www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=2351.

Of course, you cannot vote unless you register. You must be 18 years old or older on Election Day, and the easiest way to register is to go online at www.youthvote.org.

As the website says, “Why vote? Because you can!”