Opinion: I fulfilled my civic duty of voting, now I have been heard

Feature Photo By: Amor-Leigh Wilson – Gateway High School junior K.C. Wenzel and community member Stephanie Mason listen as council member Nicole Johnston goes over Ballot Issue 3I. Ballot Issue 3I was not passed, thus eliminating the Red Light Enforcement Program.

By: Dominique Harlan, Review Staff

On October 13th, 2018, I turned 18. In the United States, turning 18 means I can legally open a bank account in my own name, sue (or be sued), buy a lottery ticket, work full-time, join the military, disregard municipal curfew, and so on.

But, most importantly: I can vote. I did — just in time for Tuesday’s midterm elections.

For most of my life, I listened to the adults around me discuss the importance of specific amendments and propositions on ballots.

In 2008 and 2012, I stood by idly during two presidential elections, elated as I grew up with the first black president in office. In 2016, I watched my mom cry over the election results.

Sophomore year, I took note of Rangeview alum Alivia Lee and Hannah Metzger who attended election parties with social studies teacher Mrs. Walsh, watching as polls closed and results of the year’s election were revealed.

As time flew by, just as I had wished, it became my turn to be a role model to my younger peers and fulfil an American civic duty: voting.

Junior year, 2017-18:

During the spring semester of my junior year, I took American government with Mrs. Walsh, a class that impacted my political knowledge in one of the most powerful ways possible at the time.

At the time, the class meant nothing more to me than CCA credit. It didn’t occur to me that by the end of it, I could accurately explain to some random person on the street what conflicts arise when broadly defined values are implemented in governmental policies, how Americans view the government, and how the Magna Carta is still considered to be one of the most significant documents in the world simply for stating that everyone is subject to the law.

Pictured above is my ballot which I received in the mail (Dominique Harlan).

It was full of so much dense and vital information that taught me all about my government. I learned about several ideals, facts, and concepts that many voters may not be aware of — and I was naive for believing that it’d be just another class to me.

Without this class, I wouldn’t have voted, my reason being that I would’ve extremely uneducated.

October 24th, 2018:

Though a rather insignificant date, (unless it was someone’s birthday, in that case happy belated birthday), this was the day I got to learn all about what my ballot was actually saying.

On the 24th, Social Justice Club hosted a ballot meeting from 6-8pm for Rangeview staff and students. The meeting was also open to the community.

In the meeting, we went over some topics such as: Amendment 74 (pertains to eminent domain, regulatory taking, zoning regulations, could possibly bankrupt local jurisdictions if passed), Ballot Issue 3G (Aurora council member Nicole Johnston joked that in English instead of political talk, it means, “Are you okay with medical marijuana havin a 4% tax?”), and Ballot Issue 5A (would add seatbelts on school buses, increase pay to recruit and retain high quality teachers, expand after school learning programs…).

During the meeting, Colorado House Representative Mike Weissman added, “I love that [this meeting] is happening, and congrats to everyone that is voting for the first time — it’s a heck of a year to start.”

The ballot overall was extremely confusing, and because I am a first time voter, it was nice having it broken down. I was grateful to attend such an event that was filled with people who cared about educating others.

October 27th, 2018:

On the 27th, I voted. Beforehand, my mom still expressed to me that if I had any clarifying questions, I should ask them.

Then she left me to it, and there were so many judges I hadn’t kept tabs on, therefore inspiring so many questions. I’m pretty sure I annoyed her.

The experience of voting for the first time was liberating. I got to share with my friends what it was like, talk to senior Dawnielle Lewis about it and encourage her to vote as well, and look into other state’s elections.

Senior and first time voter Cole LaRochelle stated, “Knowing that my generation is finally starting to have a voice gives me a feeling of hope.”

PSA: If I was a resident of Texas, I would’ve voted for Beto O’Rourke.

November 6th, 2018 — Election Night:

On the 6th, I logged into The Raider Review’s Twitter and retweeted a few things, encouraging its 1,242 followers to go vote.

When I got home that night, I sat myself down on the couch, turned on the T.V., and watched election night coverage.

For the first time in my life, I got to experience what my loved ones around me have felt for years: the fear and excitement of what happens on election night.

The secrecy sleeve is included within every mailed ballot, which promotes voter privacy through shielding the contents of the ballot. The blue book is also mailed to eligible voters, and includes added information/background that elaborates on certain issues within the ballot (Dominique Harlan).

Midterm elections allow the voter to have a say in what happens right here at home, and that’s why they’re so intense.

I was so scared, because on a nationwide scale, this election was vital. According to The Week,

  • “The midterm elections are being held halfway through Trump’s presidential term, and the makeup of Congress’s two chambers could affect his ability to govern.”
  • “The state legislative elections will not only be crucial for state-level policy debates but ‘could also determine the fate of abortion rights if the Supreme Court moves to undercut Roe v. Wade, the future of Medicaid expansion in some states, not to mention innumerable other issues like education, taxes, and labor rights’, says Vox.”
  • “The outcome of the midterms could reduce Trump’s powers or might work in his favour. Thanks to a very favourable election map, Republicans ‘could conceivably pick up Senate seats even if Democrats take the House. And a gain of even a seat or two would change the entire complexion of the Senate,’ says Politico.”
  • “Should that occur, Republicans ‘might even have another shot at repealing Obamacare or shrinking the size of the federal government’, adds the news site.”

I made my voice heard in such a powerful midterm election. That resonates well with me.

November 7th, 2018 — The day after:

Last night, the United States collectively took a big leap left.

For just a few references: Democrats took over the House, became the chair of many oversight committees, elected three black lieutenant governors, sent two Muslim women to Congress, sent two Native American women to Congress, and the list goes on.

Here at home, a Democrat took over district six and elected its first (and the United States’ first) openly gay governor, Jared Polis.

Is this what moving forward is? Is my country becoming the change I want to see? The change we want to see?

In the future, for any midterm or presidential election, vote and encourage those around you to vote.

Check your voter registration status at any given time here. Commit to “vote like your rights depend on it” (because they do) here.

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