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Seniors prepare to cast their first votes

Campaign signs have cropped up across the county advertising specific candidates and/or parties in anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections in early November. For many seniors at the school, this will be their first chance to exercise their right to vote, which has encouraged many of them to become extra involved.

Campaign signs have cropped up across the county advertising specific candidates and/or parties in anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections in early November. For many seniors at the school, this will be their first chance to exercise their right to vote, which has encouraged many of them to become extra involved.

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With Election Day approaching on November 6, many seniors at the school are getting ready to cast their first votes. The upcoming general election will include elections for the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, Arlington County Board and Arlington County School Board.

Students who registered to vote before the deadline on October 15 did not typically have too much trouble with the process. They could register in person either through volunteers who worked to sign up voters or through an online platform.  

“Though I haven’t voted yet, registering online is surprisingly easy and took me no more than 20 minutes,” senior Sophia Wallace said. “The registration process online was super straightforward, and the paper forms didn’t seem difficult either.”

While some students may not be aware of this, residents of the state of Virginia can register to vote before they turn 18 years old.

“As long as you will be 18 at the time of the election in [November] you may register to vote if you are a [Virginia] resident and US citizen,” the Model General Assembly (MGA) club said in a flyer aimed at informing voters.

It is important that students keep a few things in mind as they head to the polls. Voters must bring a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Students can wear campaign gear at the polls, so long as they are careful about what they say and do.

“[Virginia] voters may wear buttons, stickers and campaign apparel when they come to the polls to vote, as long as they are not actively campaigning inside the polls,” MGA said in the flyer. “So, silently tell the world your thoughts or don’t and keep them private; who you vote for is up to you.”

On Election Day, polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. As long as a voter is in line by the time the polls close, they will be allowed to vote. Each voter in the state is also assigned to a specific precinct where they should go to vote on Election Day. This can be checked in the “Registration” section of the Virginia Department of Voting’s website.

“There are many benefits of polling places being open late into the evening, the main one being increased accessibility,” senior John Blair said. “Those with jobs or that have kids to take care of during the day may have a lot of trouble voting between 8-5 p.m., and allowing polls to be open later, such as all the way to 7 or 10 p.m. This is important for our democracy, which benefits when the largest amounts of citizens are civically engaged. Additionally, it would help get younger people more engaged in the political process.”

Students are voting for a variety of reasons. Some feel like they have an obligation to do so, while others are interested in voicing their political beliefs. “I am voting because I care about my future,” Blair said. “Even if I do not agree with many of the ways politicians act or support any candidate 100%, until I can vote for someone I fully support, I’m obligated to pick the lesser of two evils.”

The civic importance of voting is a driving factor in the decisions of many students, and other citizens, to vote. It allows people to voice their opinions on their government, which is something that many of them feel strongly about.

“It is my right, and if people don’t exercise their rights we may as well not have them,” Blair said. “A vote may not seem like much in a pool of millions, but voting is how citizens let their government know that they’re paying attention. Just as the federal government stays relatively balanced due to checks and balances, the voters check the power of the government by casting their votes.”

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Seniors prepare to cast their first votes