There is no doubt that this year’s election was a decisive one. Predictions cast victories for both candidates and from extremely close to landslides for each. Ultimately, a major factor in deciding the election was the demographic of the electorate – those who do actually vote.

Historically, those under 30 have had the lowest turnout rates. This year about 19 percent of the votes cast were by 18-30 year olds, perhaps enough to have made a difference. Some on the younger end of this are in the unique position of voting as high school students.

“I felt that it was my obligation to vote,” said Jurien Garrison, an 18-year-old senior at Scarborough High School. “My parents always taught me the value of what it means to live in America and how special it is to have a say.”

These student voters were enthusiastic not only to be able to vote for the first time, but also to cast their ballot in a particularly important election. In Maine, with the presidential and Senate races and same-sex marriage initiative, voter turnout was expected to be as high as 70 or 80 percent.

“The experience was really cool,” Garrison said. His parents wanted him to vote absentee to avoid lines, but he chose instead to vote in person for the experience of “seeing the crowds and shaking local politicians’ hands.”

“It was a good experience and makes me feel like I made a contribution,” said Jake Alofs, also a Scarborough senior.

Not every voter enjoyed this experience. Senior Aaron Ravin said that it was “intimidating to have all the candidates just waiting for you when you got there.” His voting booth then did not have a pen, and he was lucky to have had his own.

“I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much,” he said. All three were interviewed on Election Day, after voting but before the results were in.

Ravin did not follow any issues or races in particular, although he did watch two of the presidential debates. “Those were annoying,” he said. “It’s basically pointing fingers and saying the other is lying.” Question 1 was the only issue he knew much about, other than the presidential race.

Garrison mostly followed the presidential candidates, while Alofs was interested in the Senate race, won by former Gov. Angus King. “It’s a big step to have an independent senator,” he said, although he did add that if it had not been a presidential election he would not have voted.

One thing all three agree upon, however, is the value of casting a ballot.

“I’m glad I voted,” Alofs said. “I wanted to make a difference. Every vote counts.”

“I feel proud to have used my right to form my own political opinion and to stand by it as a young voter trying to better this country,” said Garrison. “The opportunity to vote in this election has encouraged me to get young people like myself involved in politics.”

Enthusiasm was so high, in fact, that no students could be found who were eligible to vote but chose not to. Were this trend to spread, it would drastically change the method of campaigns. The turnout of groups such as young voters and minority ethnic groups can change the course of elections.

Even Ravin’s negative experience will not affect his decision to vote in the future. Speaking about the why he chose to vote, he said that he thinks “every eligible American citizen should feel the responsibility of helping determine the leaders of our country, state, and town and also help decide on important issues that have been redirected to the people.”

Ultimately, he said, it is a civic duty to vote. “It’s not only a right, but a responsibility.”

Ali Pelczar is a senior at Scarborough High School.


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