Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Democratic Committee
Jefferson’s Young Democrats and Teenage Republicans collaborated to hold a voter registration drive on Friday, Feb. 8 during 8A.
Students registered to vote in the 86th House of Delegates District special election on Feb. 19, when Gregg Nelson (R), Ibraheem Samirah (D), and Connie Hutchinson (I) will be featured on the ballot. The seat became empty after incumbent Jennifer Boysko (D) ran for and was elected to now congresswoman Jennifer Wexton’s 33rd District State Senate senate.
“Many TJ students live in that district and will be eligible to vote so we wanted to make sure they were registered and would exercise their political duty/right this special election,” senior Ethan Nguonly, president of Teenage Republicans, said.
After learning about the special election, Teenage Republicans’ sponsor Mr. Monte Bourjaily suggested that the group work with a national civic organization named the League of Women Voters that was dedicated to increasing voter registration.
“He mentioned that he knew some volunteers from the League of Women Voters and that if we reserved a spot and spread the word, we could host a voting drive for students eligible to vote before Feb. 10,” senior Matthew Cohn, vice-president of Teenage Republicans, said. “We decided [to hold the drive] on Feb. 8, since 8th period schedules were a little mixed up, and we went to the 8th period office to reserve the Nobel Commons.”
From here, Cohn and Teenage Republicans reached out to Young Democrats and asked if they wished to join the event.
“I knew we had many different opinions on policy, but I also knew that we had the same goal in mind- a better community in Virginia and in America. Voting is not a partisan issue— Americans have very poor voter turnout, especially in non presidential years, and that causes several people to not have their voice heard in their representation,” Cohn said. “If it was just the Teenage Republicans running this it would be seen as a campaign for Republican candidates and vice versa.”
Approximately 30 students signed up to vote in the special election through the registration drive.
“I think it’s really important that students vote regardless of the high school you attend,” senior Olivia Johansson, who registered through the drive, said. “After discussing politics in our Government class, to be able to be part of the democratic system and decide on issues that affect us is crucial, especially in a society where many people worldwide do not get to vote in a free and fair election.”
One of the primary goals of voter registration drives held at schools is to address the low turnout of young voters — according to the Atlantic, young adults have had the worst turnout of any age group in every election since 1968.
“Young voters are pretty apathetic about elections. Young voters simply don’t vote as often as other groups and because of that we get underrepresented across the board. TJ is no exception,” senior Cameron Curtis, vice-president of Young Democrats, said. “We may have some great insights into policy but that means nothing if we don’t get out and vote. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from TJ or base school. If you aren’t voting, you aren’t being heard.”