by Emma Burstiner and Anne-Emilie Rouffiac
On November 6, the midterm elections took place. Adults and students 18 or older went to the polls to vote for their state governor, senators, and representatives as well as their US senators and representatives. In the state of Connecticut and in the town of Greenwich incumbents and new officials were elected. For the US Senator, Chris Murphy, an incumbent democrat won on both a local and state level. Greenwich also elected Jim Himes, an incumbent Democrat to be the US Representative for this part of the state of Connecticut. On the state level, the Governor elected by a margin of only 3% was Democrat Ned Lamont. For the State Senate, Democrat Alex Bergstein won against incumbent republican Scott Frantz. Finally, for the State Representative, Republican incumbent Livvy Floren won uncontested, Republican incumbent Fred Camillo won, and Democrat Steve Meskers won to Republican incumbent Mike Bocchino.
Leading up to the November 6 election, a little more than 1,500 Greenwich High School students participated in a “mock election” with their social studies classes. Organized by the Youth Leadership Initiative of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the library staff, this mock midterm took place in the Media Center, where voting was conducted on computers from October 22 to October 25. Students voted on the state and US representatives just as they would during the real election, and interestingly, these results closely mirrored the outcome of the actual midterms.
In the mock election, incumbent Democrat Christopher S. Murphy was reelected to the national senate with 51.25% of the student vote; Democrat Jim Himes was reelected to the House of Representatives, claiming 62.75% of the vote. On the state level, Ned Lamont defeated Bob Stefanowski with 2.3 more percentage points.
For the state Congress elections, students who did not live in the specified district were asked to abstain, since in the actual elections one votes for their district only. In District 36’s state senate race, Democrat Alexandra Bergstein won with 41. 24% of the student vote, defeating Republican incumbent L. Scott Franz. In District 149, Livvy Florin ran unopposed. Democrat Stephen Meskers defeated Republican incumbent Mike Bocchino by 0.58 percentage points in the House race of the 150th District. Finally, in District 151, Republican incumbent Fred Camillo won against Democrat Laura Kostin with a margin of 6.57 percentage points.
GHS’s participation in the political realm extended beyond the mock election, however; GHS students under the age of 18 were also very involved in this election. For example, the GHS Young Democrats Club worked to involve students and people around town.
Gigi Imperatore, a GHS senior and president of the GHS Young Dems Club explained: “one thing that was very successful was a voter drive at riverside commons. A lot of members volunteered and we had a great time. While we only got 5 registered voters, it was also a great experience to put yourself out there and talk to people about something that’s important to you (voting and being involved!). We also educated people walking by on who was running, where to vote etc. Not only did members feel like they did something for the community, but they truly knew that registering that one voter makes a true difference.”
Imperatore adds: “A couple other things we did was put signs around town, attended a DTC Meeting, had an RTM member speak, and phone banked during our opportunity block meeting! Even though what we did was only a few things from our long list of to do the midterm results proved that it truly works and is important. We, as a town, saw a seat switch to Democrat since 1930 (that’s pretty cool!).” Yet, Imperatore and her club members feel that, no matter what political party one associates with, civic involvement should be a priority; “Even though I am president of a club that represents democratic values in the end it’s so important for all students to stay informed about elections and politics…” Through the club’s work, she hopes to continue fostering political activity in the student body and the town, stating that “Even though the elections are over and we were extremely successful in our efforts, as students it’s essential to continue the wave and momentum of change and speaking up…”
Numerous GHS seniors did just that: since they were eligible to vote this year, and they spoke up and used the ballot to make themselves heard. Lindsey Smiles, a senior who was able to vote in the elections, stated: “the [Young Democrats] club helped me register to vote in school which made it super easy and took two minutes which was helpful!”
Additionally, on Friday, November 2, the Connecticut state government candidates for the town’s districts came to GHS to debate in the PAC. The candidates included Alexandra Bergstein, L. Scott Franz, Stephen Meskers, Mike Bocchino, Laura Kostin, and Fred Camillo. Many teachers brought their students to the auditorium to watch the event. Students were able to see and hear the candidates for themselves while learning about current issues that these candidates will work to combat during the coming term of office. Mediated by students taking the “We the People” class at GHS, the debate revolved around questions that were asked to the candidates running against each other and from opposing parties. Democrats and Republicans discussed their strategy to restore a prosperous economy in Connecticut, and often the need to bolster and attract technological, automotive, and financial institutions was emphasized.
Other questions dug deeper into the topics of green energy and the legalization of marijuana. Following the past year’s school shootings, the candidates also debated gun laws, which received great attention from the audience; the incumbent Republican candidates explained recent bipartisanship efforts to act on gun violence in the state government while Democrats emphasized the need to ensure safety, especially in schools. In addition, questions raised the topics of the state’s current pension system and the opioid epidemic. Through well-crafted arguments and passionate words, the candidates illustrated their views as well as their care for the audience of future voters. With student clubs getting involved, student mock elections, and candidate debates, the spirit and political activism of the 2018 Midterms spread through the GHS community, showing that young people truly can make a difference and make their voices heard.