Seniors Vote in the Midterm Elections


Radian Hong, Editor-in-Training

Many Rocklin High School seniors 18 years or older voted for the first time in the midterm elections held on Nov. 8.

According to the United States federal government, midterm elections are held every two years to fill vacancies in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. State and local elections often coincide with the midterms, including elections for members of the Rocklin Unified School District Governing Board.

“I really wanted to vote,” said Rocklin High School senior Samita Parija. “I’ve been looking forward to it.” She said that she found voting for the first time to be rather “underwhelming” because she had a mail-in ballot. She read informational pamphlets and researched bills and candidates she was unsure about to make her decisions. The contest with perhaps the most direct impact on students’ lives was that for the three seats on the school board that were up for election.

Trustee Michelle Sutherland, who graduated from Rocklin High School in 2002, was the only new member to win a seat. “I really wanna look at how we can expand on educational opportunities for kids so that students that have different ways of learning and different interests and things that they respond to, so that we have something for them in Rocklin Unified,” she said. Sutherland is looking to implement vocational training opportunities for high school students in areas like money management and budgeting.

The school board has a large influence on students’ lives, managing the budget and making decisions that affect the future of the district. “Some of the things may be more big picture and may be more of a systems level type of change where it’s not necessarily something where they vote and then you come to school the next day and something’s different,” she said. Nevertheless, she encourages students to participate in or to attend meetings, which are open for public comment and are live streamed on YouTube.

Part of what motivated Sutherland to run was a board meeting she attended during a series of budget cuts to schools. “There were students that came and spoke with a lot of emotion and conviction about issues that they felt needed attention. They didn’t want to lose teachers or programs that they cared about that had made a really huge impact on their lives,” she said. “Hearing the students be so involved and so brave really, to get up at a formal meeting in front of adults, it takes some bravery too. And so that was very impactful for me.”

“They didn’t want to lose teachers or programs that they cared about that had made a really huge impact on their lives.”

Students are more politically aware now than when Sutherland was in school, she said. “What I’ve learned since becoming a voter and a parent and having a career and being active in local government is that the local elections and the local business that’s being done is really what impacts us on the day to day,” said Sutherland. 

Parija found her own ways to get involved in politics. She interned for Dr. Kermit Jones, a candidate for California’s third congressional district in the midterms. She planned to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade at the Rocklin fireworks show, but found out too late that she lacked a permit to do so. She hopes to pursue a career in politics. “My dad doesn’t think I have thick enough skin,” she said.

Parija sees democratic participation as her duty as a citizen. “I find it really annoying when people complain about our government when they don’t even participate or try to change what’s happening,” she said.