“I’ve always wanted to vote and help pick the president,” says Alex Salas, an 18-year-old senior at Golden Valley High School in Merced. “It means a lot to me and I’m excited to be able to pick the person that I believe should run our country.”
Salas is a member of the city’s Youth Council, a youth counterpart to the Merced City Council. He says that while he’s disappointed with the Republican win, he still believes in the importance of exercising his right to vote.
Part of the problem is indifference, said 16-year-old Cheng Vang, a student at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater. While this election cycle has been full of turmoil and drama, many of his friends and classmates don’t regularly follow politics and therefore don’t feel a personal connection to any of the issues on the ballot.
If the voting age were lowered to 16, however, Vang said youth would be more likely to pay attention and start forming consistent voting habits.
“It’s really important that the communities who are disenfranchised and have been ignored for so long, turn out and vote. They have power and they can help make a change,” said Brenda Gutierrez, organizing director of Associated Students of University of California, Merced (ASUCM).
The 20-year-old university student spent a majority of her summer going door-to-door in Merced County to help spread the word about several ballot measures and campaigns this year. Her work was part of the ASUCM external office “We Vote” program, a statewide initiative across the UC campuses aimed at getting students more involved in elections.
I was never fond of politics or the government, because I was under the impression that my vote didn’t matter. My grandfather used to tell me conspiracy theories about how every election was rigged. I refused to be part of a corrupt system.