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East Meadow teens prepare to vote for the first time

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With a contentious presidential primary coming up next week, the Republican and Democratic candidates are the subject of many conversations across New York — including those in the halls of East Meadow and W.T. Clarke high schools, among seniors who are preparing to vote for the first time.

Ever since 1971, when the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, millions of young voters have been considered a powerful constituency — if they are persuaded to vote. Based on U.S. Census numbers, this demographic has been less engaged in presidential races since 1972, when just under 50 percent of these voters participated, enthused about their new privilege and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s campaign.

Since then, there have been ups and downs: 35 percent in 1988, 42.8 percent in 1992, 44.3 percent in 2008 — the year Sen. Barack Obama created a spark among young people — and 38 percent in 2012.

Noting that some high school students across the nation might remain apathetic about politics, EMHS senior Max De George said it’s extremely important that they educate themselves on the issues. The 18-year-old, who will be voting in the primary next Tuesday, sees it as a rare opportunity for young people to have their voices heard.

“No one ever takes you seriously when you’re young,” De George said. “When you finally get the chance to vote and to voice your opinion and it matters, you can say, wow, there’s power in what I can do.”

De George is one of four East Meadow School District students who will be first-time voters that the Herald spoke to this week to gauge their thinking on the 2016 presidential race. EMHS and Clarke students agreed that while teens across the community have different opinions about the candidates and their policies, many are concerned about the nation’s future.

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