Student volunteers and members of March For Our Lives Orlando worked together to register voters.

It has been over seven months since the Parkland shooting, but its impact is still felt among students today. Despite student protests, including Seminole High School’s walkout, gun control policies have remained unchanged. Therefore, student activists are focusing on the upcoming midterm elections as an opportunity to elect officials who will represent the youth that they are supposed to protect.

The first step in transforming the political landscape is energizing youth to vote. Seniors Malavika Kannan, Amber Price, and Mike Weiss dedicated themselves to making political engagement accessible on campus by launching a voting registration drive in partnership with March For Our Lives (MFOL) Orlando, a nonpartisan organization whose goal is to promote common-sense gun reform by urging activism amongst the youth.

“I had the idea for this drive after spending my summer registering college students to vote with MFOL,” said Kannan. “I was so inspired by the energy and passion of students when we were leading the walkout, and this seemed like the logical next step to harness that outrage and transform it into action. I truly believe that if youth stick together, we can show tremendous power at the polls this November.”

The seniors organized their first meeting on Sept. 15, where they recruited and trained over 30 student volunteers to assist students in registering. Leaders from March For Our Lives Orlando were also in attendance to inspire youth to vote.

“We are trying to keep the conversation alive about what we can do to prevent these endless mass shootings that we have in the country. It’s a systemic problem that we have based on our current gun laws, and there are things we can do to change it without taking away guns altogether. It’s our job as young people to energize our politicians to get those things done,” said Trevor Wild, a graduate of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and the president of March For Our Lives Orlando.

The drive was held on Wednesday and Thursday, The response was overwhelmingly positive, as the students were able to register almost 150 new voters. While this may not seem like a large number, every vote counts in Seminole County, which is a swing county within a swing state.

“We’re lucky to live in Central Florida, where our votes are incredibly influential,” said Kannan. “We voted for Trump in 2016, but we also elected a Democratic Congresswoman, Stephanie Murphy, that same year. So I’m hopeful that we can get our act together in the 2018 election and vote in representatives who will speak truth to power. And if they don’t, we’ll be back in 2020 to vote in someone else.”

This endeavor was attempted in the midst of midterm elections, which will ultimately dictate the party composition of Senate and House for the foreseeable future. Taking place now are hundreds of elections at the state, local, and congressional level. Since these elections will shape the next few years of government, it is important that students participate, regardless of their political leanings, to ensure that our government is run by the people.

“This [voter registration] is the best first step to get involved in politics. Voting is just one step of such a larger process,” said MFOL Communications Director Cameron Marsh.

Wild said, “Voting is fundamental to changing [the political climate], especially if we want our politicians to represent issues facing young people such as gun violence prevention.” 

However, getting politically active is not synonymous with voting. For students who are too young to vote, expressing values politically can mean raising awareness about candidates by knocking on doors, making phone calls, or sending postcards. Any act of involvement can make a difference.

Price notes that the best way to participate is by being aware of what is going on in the political sphere.

“My one piece of advice is to know your representatives and the candidates that run in the elections. Do your research, form opinions, and stand up for what you believe in,” said Price.

As the political stakes get higher, a new generation is taking up the responsibility of deciding the future of our country. Spearheaded by dedicated activists, students are the generation that refuses to be stifled into silence by the argument that they are too young to change anything.