Abortion, the climate crisis, inflation, and civic engagement were key issues for Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) students eligible to vote in the midterm elections this past November – as well as for some who weren’t yet eligible.
EPLN asked several EPHS seniors to explain their positions in order to understand the significance of the midterms, especially for young people in Eden Prairie.
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office reported a statewide 61% voter turnout, which is slightly lower than the last midterms’ turnout in 2018. (In Eden Prairie, the voter turnout was 72%.)
With Roe v. Wade’s constitutional protection for abortion overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion was one of the most pressing issues for young people, along with significant stakes for climate change and inflation on the ballot.
Mary Margaret Mellen, a senior at Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), shared that it was critical for her to get to the polls this year, considering how important climate change, inflation and democracy were to her.
“At this critical juncture in history, it is incredibly important that we recognize the effect of our daily life on the environment and work towards carbon neutrality,” she said. “Inflation is a pressing issue because of its effects on the middle and lower classes.” In order to combat the effects of rising prices, we need to implement the right monetary policies to subdue inflation,” she added.
As elections became a valuable opportunity for youth to make their voices heard, students who were eligible to vote ensured that they exercised their rights. For Tanvi Bhujle, an EPHS senior, abortion rights were critical. She yearns to see more protection for abortion access enacted across the country and verbalized increased enforcement of climate change solutions. “Especially as a woman, abortion rights and access to birth control are incredibly important issues to me. These are issues that will be difficult to change if the correct decisions are not made now,” she emphasized.
While Lucas Wagner, another EPHS senior, was not eligible to vote this year, there are a number of political issues on his mind – inflation, abortion rights, climate change, democracy, education and affordable housing. Lucas shared that regardless of one’s political affiliation, it is absolutely worth celebrating high civic engagement. Focusing on local elections is critical to him as well, and he has found that real, unglamorous change often begins in the (Eden Prairie) City Center and in St. Paul.
“(This year’s) political climate brought a sense of urgency to the midterms that I’ve never seen before,” Lucas said. “The ominous presence of climate change, the Dobbs decision, the January 6th insurrection — each make it impossible for me to be a single-issue voter, especially when the fight for democracy is intertwined with just about every other challenge we’re facing. I think Gen Z rightfully sees its future on the line, and by getting involved, students are asking politicians to begin looking forward.”
Various other students shared their concerns about climate change being an existential threat to humanity. Another senior explained, “Extreme weather, crop declines, increased heat, and extinction of animals are all byproducts of climate change. The government is filled with elderly citizens who will not see the impact of their policies in the future.“
Other EPHS seniors indicated that no matter what stance we take politically, our planet must be protected, and government officials must take care of what will severely impact our future.
The trend of young voters dramatically increasing their participation can be seen in recent years, and Eden Prairie is no exception. Youth engagement is a sign of democracy, and the power of young voices will contribute to changing today’s society and generations to come.
Harini Senthilkumar is an Eden Prairie High School senior. She is a volunteer contributor to EPLN.
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