Photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Lowell — Senior year is full of milestones for high school students. From their first last day of school, senior prom and graduation, there is no shortage of excitement.
And this year, a select group of high school seniors will add another milestone to the list: voting. On Tuesday, those who are 18 years old and registered to vote will celebrate their first election when they cast their ballots in the midterm election.
And Emma Sage, a senior at Lowell High School, can hardly wait.
“It’s so exciting that my voice actually matters. I get to make a difference,” she said.
As student body president, Emma is paying close attention to the Lowell Board of Education race, which has seven candidates for three open seats.
“How this race turns out affects me because I work with the board and go to their meetings,” Emma explained.
One way Emma is preparing to earn her first “I voted” sticker is through her AP Government class.
“My government teacher is very adamant about us finding our own voice and using it,” she said.
AP Government teacher Landon Graham said his goal is to provide straightforward information to help his students register to vote and look up what’s on their ballots.
“It was super helpful,” Emma said. “I didn’t even know you could see your whole ballot ahead of time. I thought it’d be very overwhelming, and it’s so helpful to see everything and know what it will look like ahead of time.”
Researching Candidates, Proposals
Along with previewing their ballots, Graham also required students to research candidates and proposals and create a document outlining what stood out to them.
“We had to pull up the ballot for our precinct, and look at all the candidates’ websites and interviews and things. Then, we’d pick who we think was the best candidate,” said senior Grace Larson.
“For some of the smaller races, like the county commissioners, it was really hard to find information, but overall researching the different candidates has been really helpful,” senior William Kolp added.
Graham gave students a chance to vote as part of his class, whether or not they were old enough to vote in the midterms elections. He created a mock election using Google polls.
Graham had an inkling of his first-hour class’ political leanings and wrote down his prediction for the gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon before votes started coming in.
“I went down the class list and I took a guess just based on assignments you’ve turned in and comments you’ve made in class,” he told his students. “Sometimes, I get an idea because when I’m up here there’s a few of you that will make a face when I say something about Whitmer or Dixon.”
Once the votes were in, Graham shared the anonymous results.
The first-hour AP government class re-elected Gretchen Whitmer with 52% of the vote, only 1% lower than Graham’s prediction — even with the twist of a 3.7% vote for Kevin Hogan of the Green Party.
‘It’s so exciting that my voice actually matters. I get to make a difference.’– senior Emma Sage
In other highly contested races, the class re-elected Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state and elected Matthew DePerno as attorney general. They also passed proposal 3 but nixed proposals 1 and 2.
While this was an interactive way to take a class assignment and apply it to real-life situations, Graham hopes it will follow students to the polls whether it’s in this year’s midterm election or a future one.
“I remember the first time I voted, though, I was nervous,” he shared with the class. “It might seem intimidating, but it’s really not. And once you’ve done it once, then it’s a piece of cake.