High school voters find staying informed a challenge

For seven seniors who have turned 18, the Nov. 3 election will be the first one they’re eligible to vote in.

Senior Ashwin Rohatgi decided to register to vote early last summer when he realized he would be eligible.

“Most people I know don’t cast votes, and I thought it was kind of cool,” he said.

Rohatgi plans to vote by mail to avoid crowds.

“Polling places typically have long lines,” he said. “I don’t think that’s safest during a pandemic.”

Although there has been some discussion about the accuracy of mail-in ballots, he believes that the process will be secure.

“Mail-in voting has been done by the military for a long time without any problems, so I can trust it,” he said.

To stay informed about the issues of the election, he’s watched the recent presidential debate and read the news.

Rohatgi found this process time-consuming. When a new story breaks, he often can’t read about it that day due to time constraints. Finding time on the weekends is easier, he said, but he has had to make compromises about when he reads the news.

“I don’t always have the time to spend 40 minutes reading articles,” he said.

Because California historically votes Democratic, Rohatgi said his vote for Biden for U.S. president has less of an impact than his votes for local elections and propositions.

“Voting on something that affects you — like local laws — that’s more important,” he said.  “In  a local matter, I have a much larger say because there are fewer people.”

However, not everyone who’s eligible plans to vote.

Although senior Allie Bogetich turned 18 on Sept. 26, she won’t be casting a ballot.

“I don’t feel like I’m well-learned enough in politics to be allowed an opinion,” she said.

Bogetich said others can vote without being informed, but she wants to be sure of the decision she makes.

“If I’m going to make decisions that are potentially going to affect the country, I want to research each and every decision,” she said.

Finding time to be informed is challenging during the pandemic, she said, but the main time constraint is filling out college applications. “Everything falls at the wrong time for me to be able to focus on another thing,” she said. 

Senior Avinash Krishna, who runs Country Day’s Current Events Club, said that being informed takes time.

“There are so many misleading claims online, and it’s very easy to get caught up,” he said.

Taking the time to independently read and verify these claims requires effort, Krishna said.

“There are so many things that are going on this year — any one of the big things happening would have dominated a news cycle in any other year,” he said.

Those big things include the coronavirus, a Supreme Court nomination, racial tensions flaring up and many others, Krishna said.

Although he won’t be 18 in time for Nov. 3, he said that casting a vote in the election is important.

“Even though people say in California it doesn’t matter, the reality is there are other races besides the presidential,” he said. “There are important propositions, like affirmative action, on the ballot this year.”

These votes have the power to dramatically impact the lives of Californians, and voting is a fundamental American right, Krishna said.

“Regardless of what side of the political aisle you’re on, it’s one of the most important and effective ways to get your voice heard,” he said.

— By Samhita Kumar

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