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A new responsibility for students

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By Alexandra Hehlen

Teenagers tend to associate the month of November with cold temperatures, Thanksgiving, hot cocoa and cuddling by fireplaces.
But how often do the words “presidential election” pop into teens’ minds at the mention of November? And do they even care?
Some students 18 and older may have already decided to participate in next month’s elections.
Yet, there are probably many teenagers that have reached the voting age that are unsure about voting.
“Why even vote?” “How can I do so?” and “When do I register?” are all questions asked by those hesitant to go to the polls because they are not informed about the election process.
For the most part, adolescents live in a bubble. If their parents vote, they help make decisions for the United States by doing so. At the age of 18, though, the bubble pops and young adults are left with the responsibility to cast their own vote. While some teens are eager to exercise their right as an American, others ask, “Why should I vote?
According to Michael Montaño, a government teacher at Los Alamos High School, “Most of the decisions made today are going to have the longest impact on (teenagers).” In other words, young adults that vote are taking their future into their own hands.
“In general there’s some apathy. (Students) don’t see any difference in the candidates because they don’t keep up with the election. It doesn’t seem to be as urgent,” Montaño said.
So how does one persuade a group of unconvinced students to cast a ballot? Montaño said the best way is to have every student take a government class, which is already a requirement to graduate from high school.
Government classes allow students to form their own political opinions, learn how politics affect them directly and why it’s imperative to cast a vote to ensure that they have a stake in their future.
Montaño said, “My job as a government teacher is to help (teenagers) understand why the election process is important.”
In an effort to help educate students on the election process, government teachers are organizing a mock election at LAHS this year.
The election will include mock registration and areas throughout the school where students can cast their votes for their favorite presidential candidate.
The “election” will allow students to practice voting and prepare them for when they cast their first actual vote.
Students, 18 and older, that want to vote, may obtain registration forms from the county clerk’s office, the post office or government teachers on campus.
Students must register in the county they reside in. Also, picking a political party on the form allows voters to participate in the primary elections.
After the forms are filled out, they must be submitted through the county clerk or mailed in. The deadline for submission is Oct. 9. Those that register will get a card in the mail that directs them to the location where they can cast their vote Nov. 6.
Students can also participate in early voting Oct. 20, or if they will be out of town on election days, they can participate in absentee voting, which lasts from Oct. 9 through Nov. 2.
“A lot of the things promised today are paid for tomorrow,” Montaño said.
For more information, visit the Los Alamos County Clerk’s website at losalamosnm.us/clerk.