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Townsend Harris students learn much regarding citizenry, proper conduct, and morality. In fact, when seniors leave this school they remember one thing, if nothing else, from freshman year: the school’s emphasis upon positively impacting the community around them.
Unfortunately, just as seniors are closing the books and drifting off to college, they are deprived of a final opportunity to improve their community in the form of the annual Student Union elections. How so?
By being disenfranchised.
At THHS, the eligible voting body for Student Union elections consists of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors – all around, approximately 800-900 students. Each year, prospective candidates contend against one another to secure a plurality of these votes, while the seniors are relegated to be mere bystanders: they do not have a vote in the SU elections. Why is it that seniors remain so far out of the loop of elections?
The main argument against seniors voting in SU elections is an assumption that their votes aren’t necessary – they won’t be in THHS next year.
Additionally, there is a concern that seniors might abuse their voting privilege in a last-ditch attempt to intentionally elect an incompetent leader, much to the school’s detriment.
These are both poor excuses for systematically disenfranchising almost 300 people every year. Our commitment to community service certainly includes electing competent officials. The second reason is purely preposterous.
The vast majority of seniors graduate from THHS with fond memories of their teachers, peers, and education; very few harbor ill will towards the school, and if they do, they don’t express that sentiment through a school election. Even if a small pocket of seniors hoped to cause such mischief, their votes would not be substantial enough to derail an election.
Beyond these threats, there is no logical explanation as to why seniors shouldn’t vote. Quite the contrary, the benefits of involving seniors in SU elections far outweigh any potential problem.
Seniors are unbiased veterans. They constitute the bulk of student government officials, team captains, and club presidents and officers. Seniors don’t have any candidates of their own running for office, making them the least biased by grade affiliation. At THHS open houses, administrators often place seniors at the forefront, largely because know the most about the school.
This is not to say that other grades cannot cast good votes. Rather, it’s because there are so many things that only seniors experience, such as senior trip or prom, that they should be allowed to contribute to the future leadership of their school.
Moreover, bringing seniors into the voting pool increases the competitiveness of elections.
With seniors in the electorate, candidates can no longer comfortably reach out to underclassmen only; they have to campaign to the entire school. It seems ironic that the very people behind the Election Simulation, who learn the significance of democracy and voting, are denied a vote at the end of their high school career. It’s even more ironic that outgoing seniors gain the right to vote in real elections while losing that right within school. Not only is this insulting, it’s downright hypocritical.
If we encourage THHS students to benefit their community whenever and wherever they find themselves, then outgoing seniors should be allowed to exercise that obligation by leaving their school in capable hands.