On October 27, 2018, the government team at Grayslake Central High School hosted Candidate’s Day in the theatre. During the day, students came with their classes to watch midterm candidates, or their representatives, from both political parties, present and answer questions about their platforms. Hosted every two years to follow the election cycles, Candidates Day serves to introduce students to the political process.
During Candidates Day, representatives for the governor’s race presented for both candidates JB Pritzker, Democrat and incumbent Bruce Rauner, Republican. For the US House of Representatives race in the tenth congressional district, incumbent Brad Schneider, Democrat sent a representative to present while his opponent Doug Bennett, Republican represented himself. In addition, candidates from the 62nd representative district were invited including incumbent Sam Yingling, Democrat (who was unavailable to come in a last minute decision) and Ken Idstein, Republican who represented himself.
“We just really want students to be active in order to …hopefully spark their curiosity or peak their interest so that we are creating a culture that is involved in our nation’s governmental processes”, said Georgette Katsoulis, who teaches government, honors government and world history. Katsoulis is a member of the government team along with her colleagues, Georgia Brown and Glen Roeck. Notably, Aleksandra Jarosz also helped the government team organize Candidate’s Day.
Katsoulis is hoping this interest will carry students over to the polls as she remarks on the low midterm election voter turnout. In fact, according to Fairvote.com, 20% fewer eligible voters do not show up for midterm elections than for general elections.
Interestingly enough, however, this 2018 midterm had a 55.33% voter turnout rate in Lake County (224,051 votes out of 448,295 registered voters). According to estimates by The New York Times on the 2018 midterm, this election turned out approximately 114 million votes in U.S House races compared to 2014’s 83 million nationwide. In Illinois alone, preliminary votes showed that 54% of registered voters filled out a ballot, which is the highest voter turnout since 1990 according to Matt Diedrich at the Illinois State Board of Elections. In addition, early youth voting in Illinois was up 144% compared over the 2014 midterms.
All voter data aside, GCHS students might be wondering why they should even care about elections when they can’t vote yet.
“Obviously, our students aren’t all eligible to even vote, very few are in this midterm, but still just making them aware of the candidates and the issues and bringing even simple awareness to the fact that there is a midterm election and the importance of actually participating in a midterm election when they are eligible one day,” said Katsoulis. Beyond becoming more aware, another goal is to emphasize interaction with the candidate.
“I think it’s just such a wonderful opportunity to be able to actually engage in dialogue with the candidates that may end up you know, winning and winning the election and actually representing you,” said Georgia Brown who teaches government, current issues, psychology, and AP U.S government and politics. In fact, Katsoulis noticed a fair amount of student participation in asking about things like food deserts and the Illinois budget.
“We believe it is important for students to learn not only learn about elections and campaigns but also learn about how local issues apply to them,” said Glen Roeck who teaches honors U.S. History and honors civics.