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#IfIHadAVote: Talking Politics With Lakeside Teens

Aired 5/20/16 on KPBS News.

As part of our California Counts election coverage, we're asking San Diegans who can't vote because of age or lack of citizenship how they would vote if given the chance. Students at El Capitan High School start us off.

Special Feature California Counts

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

As part of our California Counts election coverage, we're asking San Diegans who can't vote because of age or lack of citizenship how they would vote if given the chance.

I recently posed the question to a group of teens at my high school alma mater, El Capitan High School in Lakeside. The teens are student journalists in Kelly Logan's class and range in age from 16 to 18. All said they grew up watching their parents vote and are adamant they'll cast ballots just as often, if not more.

Below is some of our conversation. It's been lightly edited for flow.

Civility in politics

Megan Burks: Does this election feel different to you than past elections?

Mason Osberg, 16: It's much more … crazy is the best way to put it. We have people who are more vocal. Now you have people who just firmly believe what they believe and that's it and they won't accept anything else. They won't listen to anyone else.

MB: Does that impact your view of adults?

MO: Well, it depends on what they believe in.

MB: When your generation is in office, do you think it's going to look different?

Cameron Gritz, 18: (We're) fairly well connected. I mean, you have social media — everybody knows everybody else and what they're doing. But there's no real consensus. I mean, if you've ever gone on an internet site, there are people arguing all over the place. But at least they're discussing issues much more instead of just remaining in their own worlds. As long as you express yourself there's a possibility that change may come.

Jenny Riley, 17: Growing up with the internet and having access to all the information, instead of like previous generations just growing up and hearing what their parents have been saying all throughout childhood, we're doing our own research. Instead of having the one source, now we have kind of an infinite source.

Alaiah Faris, 17: One thing about our generation that I think would be a little better than previous generations is that, now that there's such globalization of culture, a lot more of us will be able to, like if you have a certain viewpoint, you'll be able to find someone else with that viewpoint. So we'll have more diverse perspectives than we've had in previous elections.

The lesser of two evils

MB: Do you think any of the candidates today can get us to a legislature you'd feel more comfortable with?

CG: I'm not too fond of any of the candidates because they have very good points but also very bad points.

MB: Do any of you feel like the lesser of the two evils problem is a good reason to not vote?

Amanda Amarillas, 17: No. You're letting the more evil one win.

JR: That's kind of like voting — deciding not to. That's why there's a lot of the older generation in office and not many from the younger generations who have the same ideals we do.

MB: I know people who opt out because they think that by voting you're perpetuating a system that forces you to choose between the lesser of two evils.

CG: A lot of people don't vote already, and has it changed? Not really.

Free college

MB: So most of you say you would vote for Bernie Sanders. Do you think he's a savior or the lesser of two evils?

CG: Lesser of two evils. I kind of don't like (Bernie Sanders') free college issue. I know most people do, but I'd rather have more trade schools, because a lot of my friends are just going into the military or they're not going to college but they would love to go to a trade school.

MB: Why don't you like the free college idea?

CG: I mean I love education — I plan to stay in school as long as possible. But just in high school where it's free, people don't take advantage of it. If you're paying for something, you're more likely to treasure it.

MO: If you make it free then you have to get the money from somewhere else, most likely taxes. So you're just increasing taxes. By making it free, you're just making a problem somewhere else. Nothing can really be free. It can be more affordable but free isn't going to cut it.

Milena Kufa, 17: There are a lot of people who aren't given the opportunity to go to college because it costs thousands and thousands of dollars. So if more people could go we'd have a more educated society.

#IfIHadAVote

MB: The main question we had for you guys is: If you had a vote — or when you do have a vote — what's the one thing you'd want to use that vote to change in your community?

CG: I would like to see greater personal freedom in abortion, LGBT and — this is where the conservative is in me — gun control. I would like fewer restrictions on everything.

AA: If I could vote, I'd vote for more rights for everyone, such as women and their equal pay.

AF: My major issue is protecting LGBT equality and preventing discrimination.

MK: I care mostly about environmental issues so, naturally, I have a problem with most of the Republican candidates who deny that climate change exists. I think we need to become more reliant on sustainable energy like wind and solar.

Aaron Corbeil, 18: Gender equality for both women and the LGBT community.

JR: Everybody being heard and respected no matter what they believe, or their race, or any aspect of them. Nobody should feel oppressed.

MO: The fact that there are so many homeless veterans — a lot of them. That really is unfair. Those people go out and they die for us and fight for us, and that really needs to be fixed.

Eros Rios, 18: To be honest, I actually don't know. I feel like that's something when I get older I'll start noticing what the problem is.

Are you ineligible to vote? Share what you would vote for if given the chance using #IfIHadAVote on Twitter and Instagram.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio. Our coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

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