Students, staff address implications of latest voting legislation in Texas

The September 7th bill by the Texas Senate could significantly limit access to voting stations in 2022 and 2024. ” I think it’s because [young people] believe [politics] doesn’t affect them, and they think that politics is kind of controversial, so they don’t want to address it in order to avoid conflict,” junior Yazmin Santillan said. Photo courtesy of Dan Dennis & Unsplash.

American politics generated the latest debates in Washington and at dinner tables across the nation when the Texas Senate passed its new voting bill on September 7th. The details of the bill, according to a report published by CNN Politics on September 8th, the bill would limit the amount of time voters would have to visit polling locations, would empower poll watchers, and would create new requirements for assisting voters. 

Among other things, the bill would: grant more power to election workers than federal judges; instead of illegal voting penalties being deemed as simple misdemeanors they are now recognized as felonies; and put restrictions such as the banning of 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting, which makes it that much harder on people who may not be able to vote due to a busy work/life schedule. 

Senior Political Action Club member Sam Mendoza said the bill will disproportionately affect the lower class and labor workers who have busier work schedules.

“It’s just making it harder for you to vote, especially closing the 24-hour voting because it’s against people who can’t afford to take time out of their day, especially if they’re working multiple jobs,” Mendoza said.

While the state of Illinois appears to have no intention to follow suit with Texas, the news has inspired a renewed discussion of politics in general, long after the 2020 election concluded and long after the insurrection that took place at the nation’s Capitol on January 6th.

Junior Political Action Club member Yazmin Santillan said young people tend to be less inclined to vote, even when they’re old enough to do so.

“They feel like it doesn’t affect them,” Santillan added. “They’re still naive to the whole political aspect of things and how politics really affect everybody so they already are not motivated to vote. So just implementing harder restrictions makes them less likely to go and vote.” 

From a poll conducted on a cross-section of over 600 East students, 31.2% of students identified as having little involvement in politics, and 28.4% identified as having none. Only 9.6% of students identified as being very involved in politics.

Students’ interests vary from person to person. Technology provides a multitude of opportunities and ways to consume information in this day and age. Whether it be on social media, news stations, or even radio stations, the spread of politics is out there. Yet there is an underwhelming number of teens who do not know as much about politics, according to polling conducted for this particular report.

In line with the topic of social media, junior Caley Layman said that politics is getting more attention drawn to it through the use of apps that students use on a daily basis but there is still not much interest in politics nonetheless.

“I feel young people don’t care as much [about politics] because we’re trained to not really pay attention to the news and I feel as you get older, you start to pay attention to it. And I feel like if it was around me more and we would talk about it more, then I would be interested in caring about it,” Layman added.

Sophomore Connor Kostner mentioned that once he reaches his junior year, he is going to start to pay attention more. As students draw near to that legal age of 18 which allows them to vote that opens up a lot of paths they can go down, whether that be being heavily involved down to no involvement at all. According to Kostner, he wants to make sure he knows his options before that time comes.

“I feel like [caring is] going to be next year mainly because it’s around adulthood because I know people who are 16 or 17, they’re looking to get jobs, they’re looking to get more into their future,” Kostner added. “I know my junior year I’m going to be looking at the career center and looking at jobs and with those jobs comes politics because whoever’s running it and everything is what you’re going to [have to understand].”

Poll based on a cross-section of approximately 600 students

“I feel young people don’t care as much [about politics] because we’re trained to not really pay attention to the news and I feel as you get older, you start to pay attention to it. And I feel like if it was around me more and we would talk about it more, then I would be interested in caring about it.”

junior Caley Layman

There is a lot to take in with politics and students have a lot of options if they so choose to get involved, according to AP Government teacher and Political Action Club sponsor Tyler Van Landeghem, who said he uses multiple sources to find his political information. He uses root sources such as AP (Associated Press), BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), and The Economist to find relevant knowledge for his use.

“I’m looking to get as much basic information as possible. I like analysis, so once I figure out what is going on and I like to get an analytical view of what the story is, what are the ramifications of what’s going on,” Van Landeghem said.

CNN, Fox News, NBC News, Wall Street Journal and MSNBC are all widely known news stations that report on political activity in the US. Some swing more right like Fox News and some swing more left like CNN, but no matter what the viewpoint both explain in depth what is happening in Washington.

Senior Tyler Jewett mentioned that he has a bit more of an interest in politics. While he said he does support conservative viewpoints, he said he makes sure to get all the information from both sides to make sure he understands arguments that someone with any political belief brings up.

“I usually just watch Fox News, stuff like that but I try to stay kind and diverse. So I watch Fox and CNN and I like to get all the scoop around all the drama and stuff,” Jewett added.

Jewett said that if you don’t agree with someone’s viewpoint, the courteous thing to do is to try to understand where they are coming from and listen.

Freshman Ava Stiller said that as a whole we need to be able to work together to solve problems. Distancing ourselves from one another is not the answer to what the country needs right now. Being able to step up and join as one is something that is very beneficial in any scenario and especially here.

“If we keep ignoring [the issues], things will never get better. We are the answers to it. It’s not necessarily that we need our government to do everything for us, but we need to all step up and work together,” Stiller added.

Junior Political Action Club Vice President and President of the Young Republicans Tyler Boecker said that in the Texas Voting Bill, the elected officials pushed too hard and did not take into consideration the fallout it would cause.

“I think they were just doing it to gain themselves another election or another four elections or something. I don’t think they really cared about who hated them and I think they cared more about helping them maintain power,” Boecker said.

Vivian Campbell is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl. This feature was co-written by Teddy Wynard.

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