November election attracts little student interest

Zev Hurwitz, Editor-in-Chief

As the 2010 California gubernatorial election rapidly approaches, competition is heating up between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. But at Shalhevet, a sizable portion of the student body isn’t paying much attention.

A poll taken by The Boiling Point Friday October 8, showed that just under half of the Shalhevet community supports one of the two candidates. Whitman and Brown each earned just slightly more than 20 percent of student support and 3.6 percent of those polled said they support someone else. Meanwhile 35 percent wrote that they didn’t know, and 21 percent said they didn’t care.

The poll was conducted at Town Hall Oct. 11 and 109 students participated. Of those who participated, 33 were freshman, another 33 were sophomores and juniors and seniors were 19 and 24 respectively.

“I don’t feel a direct connection to the governor election because the governor rarely affects my everyday life,” said junior Scott Rad. “I care more about mayoral politics because the mayor is more local and what they do affects me more directly.”

The senior class was the only grade with a majority of poll respondents indicating either Brown or Whitman. Of those who selected either candidate, freshman and sophomores preferred Whitman while 11th and 12th graders favored Brown.

“I support Jerry Brown because Meg Whitman’s advertisement indicated how liberal he is, which I like,” said senior Eli Willis.  “He supports keeping abortion legal and supporting public education, and if Meg Whitman thinks that’s a bad thing, why would I vote for her?” 

Senior David Mor cited Meg Whitman’s business experience as grounds for his support.

“I feel she might be able to fix the economy better than Jerry Brown,” David said. “Her success with eBay leads me to think she can successfully fix California’s economy.”

Only Senior Yechiel Goldberger is old enough to vote in this election, but he had not registered to vote by the Oct. 18 deadline. Senior Ariella Benji will turn 18 only 3 weeks after the Nov. 2 election and would have liked to register.

“I am a little bit upset that I can’t vote,” said Ariella whose birthday is Nov. 24.  “It’s annoying that I only miss the date by a few days and it’s upsetting because we were learning in AP Gov that this is a really close race and that it is making history. So it would have been cool to be a part of that.”

As part of graduation requirements, all Shalhevet seniors take Government or AP Government. This year, government teacher Larry Mullin began the year with a unit about the midterm elections, which could explain why 12th graders were more likely to have a candidate preference than underclassmen.

“It’s one of the main goals I have set for myself and the course,” said Mr. Mullin, “and I can see and hear in my students questions and comments that they are becoming more aware, more curious, and in many cases, more excited about the upcoming election.”

Students who participated in the poll were also asked whether their views matched either of their parents’ views. The majority of respondents, 55.8 percent, didn’t know. But 33 percent, mainly those who selected a candidate, said they agreed with at least one parent. 

Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman are both running to succeed current governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who assumed office in November 2003. No Shalhevet student was older than 11 for that special election, when then-Gov. Grey Davis was recalled and Schwarzenegger was elected from a field of over 100 candidates.

Thus the 2010 election may be the first state race that students have any interest in—however small. A  2008 Boiling Point poll about the presidential election showed that only 4 percent of students didn’t know or care about the election.

California’s November ballot, besides the governor election includes referendums on a variety of issues such as the moratorium on law AB 32 (Prop. 23) and congressional redistricting power (Prop 20). 

After the 2010 United States census, congressional voting district borders are due to be redrawn, especially if California’s representative allotment changes as a result of the census. Final census numbers are expected by the end of this calendar year.

The Boiling Point poll also included a section about what students knew about the November 2 ballot’s content. The most identifiable referendum on the ballot was Proposition 19, the statewide legalization of marijuana. Sixty-four percent of students polled correctly recognized the marijuana proposition as a part of next month’s election.

Marijuana, if legalized, would only apply to persons over 21. Additionally, recreational possession and use of marijuana  would continue to be a federal crime.