Locals encouraging students to vote

Anna Feng and Payton Anderson

With midterm elections on Nov. 8, the Palo Alto Youth Council and teachers are encouraging Palo Alto High School students to vote as well as helping them register.

This year’s elections at the local level will include candidates competing for seven spots on City Council, two positions on Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education and an opening for Santa Clara County sheriff. Students can learn more about how to register here.

Senior Isabelle Jacobi enters her ballot to vote in the upcoming election. As a young voter, Jacobi said teens should be more informed regarding local politics and elections. “The likelihood of younger people being informed about the different propositions, candidates, and such isn’t super high.” Jacobi said. “And that’s a problem that needs to be addressed in order for younger voters to get more involved.” (Photo: Payton Anderson)

According to PAYC member and Paly freshman Simone Batra, the council is helping students register to vote to encourage civic engagement and awareness. 

“This year, the PAYC, along with mental health issues, is also really focusing on bringing 16-plus-year-olds and other high schoolers into registering to vote,” Batra said. “We have kids from all over the area and beyond that are working together on this and trying to reach awareness to all the high schools around the Bay Area.”

Batra said the PAYC is planning on organizing a variety of initiatives to publicize the election and make voting more accessible for eligible students.

“We’re planning on … making some pre-registration boxes and distributing boxes around school,” Batra said. “For students who can’t yet vote or pre-register, they can go to city council meetings or youth town halls.” 

Senior Isabelle Jacobi recently turned 18 and plans on voting next month. Jacobi said she registered to vote as soon as she could but recognizes that many of her peers fail to do the same for various reasons. 

“The majority of young teenagers aren’t aware or interested in voting and might not understand the importance of voting,” Jacobi said. 

According to Batra, students should register to vote because it is an opportunity to exercise this right and responsibility while preparing for adulthood. 

“It [voting] is really good practice as they [students] move on to their adult life and at the PAYC, we all believe in improving teens’ lives and making their voices heard,” Batra said. “It is really good practice as they move on into adulthood and getting them more involved with their community.” 

Jacobi said one of the greater issues preventing younger people from voting is their lack of education on the electoral decisions their votes would contribute towards.  

“Implementing lessons that focus on topics being voted on in elections in high schools, especially for seniors, like on different propositions, candidates, would help the problem,” Jacobi said. “So … even those who can’t vote, have a foundational understanding of what’s going on and what’s at stake in the election.”

Economics teacher Grant Blackburn is finding ways to encourage young people to vote by offering guidance with their registration during PRIME. 

“Most seniors don’t turn 18 until after the election,” Blackburn said. “This was just an attempt to capture the couple of seniors that actually have birthdays before the election.” 

Many young voters remain discouraged to vote for a variety of reasons, one of which is that younger voters are not empowered enough to vote, according to Blackburn.

“The real thing [issue] is that people need to know that their vote matters,” Blackburn said. “And it’s hard to believe that when you are one of millions. If enough of you go out and vote, it’s going to work out well, so people need to believe that their vote matters.”

Students can learn more about the candidates here.