On November 3, 2020, seniors and juniors at North Kingstown High School will have their first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. The upcoming 2020 elections have been highly publicized on the national spectrum, but Rhode Island’s local elections are just as important and upperclassman might feel inclined to participate in them as well.
For underclassmen, an important opportunity for students to participate in these elections will be candidates’ day, which will be held next fall. Mr. LawrenceVerria, a history teacher at NKHS and the organizer for candidates day, acclaims candidates day as an excellent way for students to make a difference about things they care about. “People have the power if they exercise it,” Verria said. “If they don’t, then, no, they don’t have a power.”
In 2020, local elections will include voting on school committee seats, the town council, the state General Assembly, the state senate, as well as the US Senate and the US House of Representatives. Rhode Island’s incumbent senators are Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, the latter of which will be up for election this upcoming year. The incumbent representatives are David Cicilline and Jack Reed, both of which are up next year.
Verria expects that all three will be running again in this election. “I would be surprised if any of them weren’t running,” Verria said, and added that he suspected that should a democratic president win the 2020 elections, Cicilline or Reed might be chosen for a national position.
At this time, it is too early for people to announce that they will be running against one of the incumbents. All three incumbents are democratic and have very similar values.
All three are supporters of working to end global climate change. “I believe we must harness Americans’ ingenuity and creativity to make the United States a world leader in renewable energy technology and move our nation towards energy independence,” says representative Jim Langevin on his official website. Congressmen Cicilline and Reed share similar messages, supporting the increase in renewable energy, limiting carbon emissions, and, as Reed says on his website, holding large polluters accountable for their damage to the environment.
Similarly, all three are in support of increasing limitations on firearm ownership. Perhaps the most outspoken of the three on this topic is Jim Langevin, who became a quadripilegic after a gun accidentally discharged when he was on a boy scouts’ trip. “The accident that nearly took my life is a constant reminder of the damage guns can cause, even in what should be the safest of settings: a police department with well-trained officers,” Langevin says. Senator Reed, who was previously an officer in the US Army, stresses that to keep schools safe, mental health must be prioritized in students and young adults.
The incumbent congressmen all share similar opinions on health care, decreasing the cost of college, women’s rights, and other popular topics. For students wishing to ask the three incumbents questions, all three will be invited to 2020 candidates day and historically, many of them have showed up.
For those who do not agree with the views expressed by the incumbents, Republican candidates will not be announced until later, but will also be present at candidates day. There is always a representation of both on candiates’ day, a requirement for the state to have a thriving two-party system. There is never a scenario in which a candidate is not invited to candidates day, as Verria said he believes in an “open, free political process where everyone has an opportunity to be heard”.
However, some years Verria says there have been fewer Republican candidates due to a lack of funding. Verria said “Equal opportunity and equal access to the people” is important, but “sometimes money prevents that.”
For students supporting either the majority or the minority party, it is only possible to have your voice heard if you participate in the election. Be sure that you have registered to vote before election day, but if you have not, you can register online or at the DMV. Some students may have already registered at the DMV when taking their driving test. If you are taking your driving test soon, be sure to check the box on the paperwork to register.
Presidential primaries will be on April 28 and election day is on November 3 for national and local positions. To have a functioning democracy in America, it is imperative that people vote and that starts with the youth. So vote.