Voting: A Right, A Privilege, and a Responsibility

Iris Lee, Student Life Editor


   It’s a typical morning at PPCHS. Dozens of cars line up outside the school gates, waiting to drop off students. But in October, there’s more than just cars outside the library. An ocean of political campaign signs flood the parking lot, and campaigners stand outside for hours at a time handing out flyers to passersby—a sharp contrast to the generally peaceful scenery. Election season has finally arrived. 

   Turning 18 is a huge milestone; it’s the line that draws the divide between childhood and adulthood. For many, the anticipation is an unforgettable experience: finally becoming an adult and having a fresh start to a new beginning. Yet, although the freedoms and liberties of turning legal age are certainly invigorating to the average teenager, 18 places a huge implication on one’s shoulders: voting eligibility. “Voting is truly a privilege. I know that sounds a little bit corny, but it’s what it is—truly a privilege protected by so many people,” says Commissioner Siple. 

   Yet, although being a constitutional right and one of the fundamental pillars of democracy, studies reveal that the voting turnout for young people is significantly lower than that of the older voters (The New York Times). Many young adults tend to avoid voting because of their belief that their vote doesn’t make a difference, or merely due to struggles in understanding the voting process. And so, Mr. Quigley started an event that would become one of Charter’s oldest traditions.

   In 2004, Mr. Quigley invited seniors to vote after school alongside their teachers. Facing a low turnout however, he decided to vote early at the library during school hours instead. It was a hit. According to Mr. Quigley, “Both one of the good things and big realizations we had was the number of kids who said they wouldn’t have voted if we didn’t do this. One of the studies that had been done in voting is that if you do it young, you would do it for the rest of your life. I hope that this experience means that we will have our kids more engaged and wanting to vote.”

   On October 28, early voting opened at the Broward County Public Library, and what would be one of the most momentous days in students’ lives had finally come. After a powerful speech delivered by Commissioner Siple expressing the importance of voting and making informed decisions, students marched together to the library unified and determined to have their voices heard. “It really is our country’s freedom to walk into the library and freely select those folks who are going to represent you,” she says. 

   The library entrance was crowded with PPCHS seniors, excitedly chattering and eager to make a difference. They lined up outside the auditorium, as citizens of all ages stood filling in their ballots. “The people running the voting poll were really efficient at their job, so I got to do the actual voting really quickly. The voting experience itself was very surreal. There were a lot more election positions than I expected to be on the ballot, and reading the amendment questions very much reminded me of questions I would see on a test at school,” explains senior Chelsea Ugwuozor.

    And finally, as the line began to thin, the seniors’ early voting was a huge success. They walked out of the library with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they’ve fulfilled their responsibility as citizens and achieved a major milestone in their lives. “At the end of the day, it’s [voting] how all major decisions are made for our country. Even if your vote may be a small factor in the final decision, everyone has to prioritize it and do it carefully for all voices to be heard and the outcome to be fair,” says senior Emma Schenker. 

   As this past October marks another successful year for the longstanding tradition, Mr. Quigley is grateful to continuously have the support of students, staff, and Mr. Bayer. “There’s not a whole lot of planning, but there’s a lot of trust. The fact that Mr. Bayer has always supported this is amazing. I know it’s become one of his favorite things, but the fact that he’s willing to let us do these things shows how amazing he is– both as a person and a principal,” he says. Although election season is coming to a close, there’s a greater lesson that Mr. Quigley wants his students to walk away knowing. “They have a voice. They should use that voice. Because this country needs to hear you guys. And the best way to show your voice is to vote.”