NSHSS Member Lea Park-Kim Explains Why Your Vote Matters

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

NSHSS member Lea Park-Kim is a 2009 graduate of Junipero Serra High School in San Diego, CA. She went on to study at the University of San Diego where she majored in international relations and had the opportunity to experience other cultures through an immersion trip and study abroad programs in El Salvador, Israel/Palestine, and Morocco. Lea joined NSHSS early in her high school career and has taken advantages of many resources including the Student Council Program. She now works in politics and has an important message for NSHSS voters.

Your Vote Matters

This year is an election year and some of you will be voting for the first time. That is something to celebrate.

I get excited by the thought of being a decision-maker for my country and hope you are, too. Voting is a crucial part of democracy’s identity and it is also very natural for us. How many times were you in a group of friends or family and decided something by voting? We apply it to many different decision-making processes from where to go for dinner to what the homecoming dance’s theme is going to be to who will lead this great country for four years.

I have heard people say to me every single election cycle (Brace yourself – you will, too) that their vote doesn’t matter. Yes, sometimes what you vote for does not win, but that doesn’t mean your voice is not valuable or should be neglected. I vote because I don’t want to inherit the country decided by people before me. I want to create the country that I want to live in, don’t you?

Picking the next president is important. So is picking your Senator. But so is picking your next Congressman or Congresswoman. So is picking your state representatives, County representatives, city representatives and many more. Some states have ballot measures and you get to decide the laws themselves. We live in a unique country where each state and community has the ability to make its own laws, and you get to have a say at every level. How great is that?

To be an informed voter and citizen, find time to be up to date. It is critical that we know what is going on around us and around the world and develop our own opinions instead of being driven by others who have already formulated their thoughts. I stay informed by reading a daily email with the top headlines, picking a few stories from some of the news apps on my phone and sometimes have the news on while getting dressed for work. If tell myself that I have time to scroll through Instagram, I have time to check out today’s news. If you have a smartphone, download a few news apps and see which one fits you the best. Many news outlets offer daily emails with top stories as well.

In the TV show Newsroom, a college student asks the three panelists in the scene, “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” The protagonist, William McAvoy, passionately expresses,

“[…] It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chests. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. […] We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy...”

In order for our country to be great, it needs you and me. It needs our critical thinking and our care. If you are eligible to vote this year, have you registered? Visit https://vote.usa.gov/ to learn how to register to vote in your state.

The NSHSS 2016 Political Survery

The National Society of High School Scholars recently published the results of the NSHSS 2016 Political Survey, which was administered online to NSHSS members in December 2015. NSHSS members are high-achieving young people, ages 15 to 32, and represent the future leaders of the United States and the world. This report, prepared by Hanover Research, explores participants’ preferences for accessing political news, past participation in presidential elections, and opinions of the 2016 presidential election candidates and issues. In total, 9,899 NSHSS members responded to the survey.

Where do NSHSS members stand on the issues?

  • According to 49% of respondents, the ‘economy and jobs’ is one of the most important issues they consider when selecting a presidential candidate.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents also consider student loan debt (34%), terrorism (33%), and civil rights (32%) as important issues.

Where do NSHSS members get their news?

  • Most respondents receive political news from several different media platforms, including the Internet (79%), television (70%), and social media (66%).
  • While only 18% of respondents check the news every day, nearly all check the news regularly. Only 2% of respondents report not receiving any political news. The majority of respondents spent less than 15 minutes (39%) or 15 to 29 minutes (29%) checking the news.

What are the voting trends of NSHSS members?

  • 55% of respondents 18 and older were registered to vote, and 54% of currently unregistered but eligible voters report that they intend to register to vote for the 2016 election.
  • 28% of currently registered voters were eligible to vote in the 2012 election and 78% of those respondents cast a ballot in 2012, comparing to a voting rate of 60.8% for all adults 18 and over in 2012.[1]

To see more detailed results of the NSHSS 2016 Political Survey, please view our slideshow. 

[1] File, T. “Young-Adult Voting: An Analysis of Presidential Elections, 1964-2012.” U.S. Census Bureau, April 2014. https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-573.pdf