Teacher encourages students to get out, vote Nov. 3

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March for Our Lives protesters marched from San Jose City Hall to the Arena Green on March 24, 2019. Photo sourced from NSPA photo exchange. Photo taken by Eric Fang.

Eva Levin copy editor

Victoria Hirsh staff writer

On Nov. 3, the nation will make a choice. Some Beverly students will make this choice for the first time, joining 15 million other new voters. While this election year looks a little different due to the abundance of mail-in ballots and early voting, U.S. Government and Economics teacher Catherine Pincu continues to educate her students on the importance of voting.

“Democracy doesn’t work unless everybody plays,” Pincu said. 

Since she began her teaching career, Pincu has handed out a voter registration form to every single student when they turned 18. In addition to encouraging students to vote, she frequently holds discussions in class about political current events and the upcoming election.

“I love that a teacher is doing her part to take advantage of the election year to educate her students about the election,” Pincu’s student, senior Eli Katz, said

Senior Deborah Godishan, another student of Pincu’s, agrees with Katz.

“Mrs. Pincu [telling us about voting and registration] makes me feel prepared. It helps me get an idea for later when I actually vote,” she said.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Pincu had to change how she introduced her students to the importance and necessity of voting. Instead of handing out physical registration forms, she made an assignment on Google Classroom dedicated to registering to vote.

“The only problem I have ever had with that assignment is I have some students who have green cards. They can’t register to vote early like their peers, so I say to them: ‘Get a friend to register.’ Spread the word. Try to get as many people to register as possible, because that’s half the battle,” Pincu said.

 Despite the lack of in-person contact, Pincu’s message is still the same.

“The more people that I can get active, the better,” she said. “There’s lots of studies that show that the younger you are when you start voting, the more likely you are to be a lifelong participant.”

Young voters are already showing up to the polls in record numbers, according to the Harvard Institute of Politics. Despite these current numbers, Voter turnout among young people is almost always dramatically lower than any other age group for a plethora of reasons, but people who begin to vote young tend to form a habit and continue to do so for the rest of their lives, according to Pincu. 

One of the most common reasons young people tend not to vote is because they think their vote just doesn’t matter.

“I would say [believing your vote doesn’t count] is one of the biggest tools that people who want to suppress your vote use against you,” Pincu said.

Pincu addressed those who don’t vote due to the statewide power of a single political party, saying a single vote on a federal level may not make a massive difference, but “certainly can matter at a different level of government.”

She pulled from her teaching experience to make her argument. “We teach kids that you should always try and you should always play,” Pincu said. “You don’t always play to win, you play to be involved.”

Another reason people ages 18 to 24 tend to not vote is because of all of the hoops and hurdles necessary to secure a ballot. While there can be some stringent laws in certain states, California makes voting fairly easy for its residents, a fact Pincu often tells her students.

“California is one of the states that wants as much participation in our government as possible, so they do as much as they can to get people to register to vote,” she said. 

One of the methods California adopted to encourage young people to vote was dropping the voter registration age from 18 to 16. Sixteen-year-olds can now pre-register to vote in California, meaning the second they turn 18 they are completely registered and ready to vote. 

Despite the Golden State’s more lax rules about voting, Pincu notes America’s suffrage regulations are pretty “different” from other first world nations.

“[In] most democracies in the world, you don’t have to register to vote, you just automatically vote. So, we’re the ones who sort of make people jump through hoops in order to vote, when it’s just an automatic in a lot of places,” she said.

Even with nationwide red tape around voting, Pincu believes even just giving her students the opportunity to register to vote will cause them to be active members of society. She explains that when a person registers to vote, they will get a “worksheet” mailed to them before the election, detailing the names on the ballot and different propositions.

“Once you register, you’ll start getting voter literature, which will be more likely to inspire you or at least remind you to vote,” Pincu said.

Since Pincu has been handing out voter registration forms for years, many former students still take the opportunity to reach out to her and tell her they voted.

“Some of the best gifts that I’ve been given are students sending these selfies outside of polling places or with their ‘I voted’ stickers. Even after they’ve graduated, I still have students who are sending me pictures,” she said. “It does my heart so much good [to know] that they’re excited to vote, and they know that I am excited for them to vote.”

Pincu addresses that many of her students have differing political ideals and beliefs than her. She says she flat out thinks it doesn’t matter what party students register as.

“I don’t care what your political leaning is, I just want you to care. When we don’t care, we don’t participate. And when we don’t participate, the government stops working for us,” she said.

Even if Pincu’s students remain unconvinced, she has one message for them.

“Your vote is your voice,” she said. “Your voice always matters.”

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