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These Bloomington-Normal high schoolers are voting for the first time Tuesday

Normal Community High School seniors, from left, Brady Kozlen, Drew Farmer and Sam Jackson are voting for the first time in the April 4 election.
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Normal Community High School seniors, from left, Brady Kozlen, Drew Farmer and Sam Jackson are voting for the first time in the April 4 election.

Three Bloomington-Normal high schoolers say they’re excited to vote for the first time next week.

Normal Community High School seniors Drew Farmer, Brady Kozlen and Sam Jackson are now old enough to vote, and Tuesday’s election is their first. Kozlen will stop and vote on his way to school; he has a track meet in the afternoon. Jackson will vote after school with his parents. And Farmer is thinking about voting Monday, (obviously) the last day of early voting.

Turnout in local elections like this is usually low. It was 12% four years ago.

Farmer said that’s kind of a shame.

“I get it. I know it’s something where maybe you’re out of the school system and you don’t feel like it really matters to you anymore … but the reality is, the things that we vote on end up affecting everyone one way or the other,” Farmer said. “And historically, not everyone’s had the right to vote. And I think it’s important to exercise your right to vote when you’re lucky enough to have that.”

Kozlen’s been waiting to vote for a long time. He did the math back in fifth grade and figured out he’d narrowly miss eligibility for the November 2022 midterms.

“That propelled me to be more informed in this election, for my first time,” he said.

All three students have been talking to their families and doing their own online research about what’s on the ballot. All three said the Unit 5 tax referendum and school board races were the most important things on the ballot to them.

Kozlen and Jackson are both thinking about their younger sisters who will still be in Unit 5 after they graduate NCHS.

“That (referendum) has the potential to completely change Unit 5 moving forward,” Jackson said. “The referendum can completely change the curriculum, extracurriculars and funding in general.”

It’s easy to be cynical about politics, which are especially polarized at the moment. Farmer said he feels that a little himself, even though it’s first time voting. He said people should resist that cynicism.

“If more and more people are thinking, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what I say,’ you end up with only 20% of your registered voters voting. And you get candidates who don’t represent what the people actually want. So I get it, but if everyone can stick together and all come out and show support for who they care about, then I don’t think that really becomes an issue anymore, or less of an issue,” Farmer said.

Polls are open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find your polling place.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.