OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Teenagers at an Oklahoma City high school held a conversation about the importance of participating in the electoral process for young voters.
Some of the kids were 18 and ready to vote in Tuesday’s election.
“Right after school today. I’m just going to go down the street and vote early,” said Quan Lu, a senior at Classen SAS.
Other students were 17 but just as eager to participate.
“We had a voter registration drive that I helped run…it was a really good experience talking to other student like my peers around me,” said Jenna Chan, a 17-year-old senior.
Young voters do not typically turnout in high numbers.
In 2020, voters 18-24 years old had just 51% participation. That was the lowest of all age groups.
For the kids at Classen, they want the participation to improve.
Heading into next week’s election, 16.9% of the registered voters are 18-29 years old, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board. The total number is 386,772 Oklahomans.
Locally, the main issue the high schoolers are focusing on is the Oklahoma City Public Schools bond proposal.
“It’s going to impact, not just like my group, but the groups that’ll come after us,” said Alex Murray, a 17 year-old at Classen SAS.
The students take that issue personally, even though many cannot vote, and they will not benefit from the resources available if it passes.
“I have a little sister who has special needs, and she went to an OKCPS elementary school,” said Chan. “And whenever I would go to those buildings, a lot of them would be rundown or would be missing desks.”
This level of engagement is not a surprise for Richard Johnson, a political science professor at Oklahoma City University.
“We’ve actually seen an uptick in youth involvement since 2018,” said Johnson, who teaches mostly 18 to 24-year-olds.
Johnson said that younger generations take in more information because of social media, but they are more apt to handle the intake of news and decide what is valuable for them.
“They recognize that not everything is fact checked,” said the professor. “And so when you have discussions with them about the strengths and weaknesses of social media, they’re aware.”
When it comes to local races, Johnson said his students are taking a particular interest in the outcome for State Superintendent because of their own experience in public education.
But his students are paying attention to other issues as well. He said young adults are passionate about being informed.
“Whether it’s the cost of tuition or the environment or inflation. They all feel it the same way the rest of us do,” said Johnson.
The State Election Board shows in-person early voting at 72,008. Ballots received by mail totals 62,137.
Early voting ends Saturday at 2pm. Right now the total of in-person voting and mail-in results is at 134,145.
Compared to 2018, the total was 174,979.
“I think turnout is going to be very high,” said Johnson. “Certainly the early voting leads us in that direction.”