In the lead-up to the presidential election, Sequoyah students and faculty reflected on how they cast their ballots, some for the first time. This year, there were six Sequoyah School seniors who were eligible to vote in the November presidential election. The Barefoot Times interviewed them and reached out to teachers for their insight into the voting process. 

All eligible students who we talked to planned on voting; they all mentioned that climate change and racial inequality are issues that are important to them. Senior Claire Donahue said that she was excited to vote on local issues especially.

All students who were interviewed planned on voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Twelfth grader Silas Wilson noted that he would be voting for Biden and Harris “because they have the best chance of getting Trump out of office, and that would be great.”

Senior Theo Schmit said that he finds doing research particularly important before voting, especially with propositions. One strategy that Schmit draws on is “finding what likeminded people are voting for.” Another key part of researching for Schmit is watching the presidential debates. 

Both Schmit and Donahue know peers who were not planning on voting. Donahue expressed that she has “a lot of really strong Bernie [supporting] friends who were hesitant on [voting] in the beginning.” She thinks that everyone “at this point is kind of coming together [around] a shared goal.”

History Teacher Lindsey Graham and Math Department Chair Ronnie Bryan offered some helpful tips for first-time voters, as well as shared some of their previous experiences at the polls. 

Because the election was for more than just the President, Graham shared some helpful resources for those deciding on how to vote on propositions and judges. Graham noted that Ballotpedia is great for looking up propositions. She stated that “they provide the actual text of the measure […]. They explain the background of it, who proposed it, its history and relations to prior laws or propositions. They provide lists of endorsements if they have it, so you can see exactly who’s supporting it.” Bryan seconded this resource and expressed that it’s also helpful to look at the endorsements of organizations that you trust and with whom you share values.

Graham and Bryan both find the judges the hardest to decide on, but shared insights on how to decide for whom to vote. Graham recommended looking at the judges’ websites “to get a sense of how they are presenting themselves, what they emphasize about their background, and their judicial philosophy.” Both Graham and Bryan suggested that voters check the American Bar Association’s ranking, because they have a system that assesses candidates’ qualifications for the position they’re seeking. Graham stated that “if someone’s not qualified, that’s a big red flag.” 

Graham’s number one tip is to keep in mind candidates’ experience when deciding for whom to vote. One way to do this is by asking yourself, “does this person have a good understanding of the law, the way that the government works, are they going to be able to advocate for me and represent me, having enough knowledge?”

Bryan’s number one tip is to take your time filling out your pre-ballot (the fake ballot you do at home), noting that it “takes more time than you realize to vote.” Bryan recommends spending time carefully researching all of the choices and looking up anything that isn’t immediately obvious. “Do it like you should do a math quiz, in pencil, taking your time, and trying to have fun!”