2020 Election at Stevenson

The Political Action Club prepares for the upcoming election as some of its key figures remind students why youth involvement in politics is so important.

The Political Action Club prepares for the upcoming election as some of its key figures remind students why youth involvement in politics is so important. 


With the United States presidential election coming up on November 3, Stevenson High School’s Political Action Club (PAC) has organized events and various student opportunities to generate interest. Additionally, clubs, classes, and former students have encouraged students to become involved in politics, if not already. 


Andrew Conneen is the sponsor of PAC, as well as a social studies teacher at Stevenson. His club has been holding events to help raise student enthusiasm for the 2020 election, as he believes that highschool students should be aware and invested in local and national politics. 


Conneen believes that social studies classes and PAC are effective to raise awareness of politics, which he finds beneficial for students, especially in before an election. 


“We certainly know that because of TV, social media, and the internet, we almost see our elections as sporting events that take place every four,” Conneen said. “We feel it’s super necessary to let our students know that governing is more than just one election.”


The PAC has been averaging about one event a week, open to all students to participate. Besides holding watch events for the Democratic and Rupublican National Conventions, the club has helped coordinate election judge training for 45 Stevenson students and is working with the Lake County Clerk’s office to be election judges on November 3. 


In order to  help students get more involved with politics, they are currently coordinating voting prep sessions for first-time student voters or for their families to let them know how to register, access the ballot, and  learn ways to vote for the 2020 election. The assistance aims to help people vote,  be it voting on election day in-person, early voting at a voter site, or voting by mail.


Conneen finds it necessary for students to care about politics. He believes that politics allows students to learn skills of leadership and advocacy, and that regardless of what they plan on doing after high school, those skills are crucial. 


The PAC  aims, not only to provide students with information about politics, but to create a generation that continues contributing to democracy through  voting. He emphasized that being active in politics is not only important for individual skill development, but critical to the foundation of the American Republic.


In past elections, there has been an increase in youth voting. In the 2018 midterm elections, a record number of young voters went to the polls; however, the percentage of youth voters is still far less than the voter turnout for other age groups. 


CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, is an organization that tracks voter participation data. For the 2018 midterm elections, CIRCLE reported that only 23% of eligible voters, under 20, cast ballots. Illinois voters under 20 dipped below the national average, one of the lowest voter turnouts among young voters in the country, with only 14.8% voting. 


“We know that some of our students go on and work in the government, but even the students who aren’t officially in government should be advocating for better government,” Conneen said. “That’s our job as citizens of the Republic.”


Victor Shi, a graduate of the Class of 2020 and Illinois’ youngest delegate for presidential candidate Joe Biden and co-host of the Intergenerational Politics’ podcast, has long been interested in politics. As a former member of the PAC, he echoes Coneen’s thoughts and calls for a more active youth. 


 He notes that many young people complain about not being represented. “When you take a step back and question why these problems have not been addressed,  it is because young people aren’t really making their voices heard,” Shi said. ?


In high school, Shi was a member of the PAC. He has found that being in political clubs at school encourages a “civic lifestyle” in which citizens find a “way to understand the world around [them] because once [they] start understanding the world around [them], [they] understand why politics and voting is important and then [they] take the next step and actually vote.” 


For high school students that may not be interested in politics, Shi has a simple message: “It is easy to be resigned from politics as a young person because you may think you don’t make a big difference. But public sentiment requires everyone. As long as you advocate for something you care about, as long as you vote, your voice will matter.”