For many Potomac seniors, this election is your first chance to vote–And it matters


Mr. von Glahn

Mr. von Glahn, avid voter, stands by the ballot box in this election year!

Evelina Swigart, Staff Writer

Mr. von Glahn, Upper School history teacher and avid voter, is sure of one thing: “This is the most important election I have ever been a part of,” he said.

A bold statement, no doubt, but not an uncommon one. Many other Potomac students, like Senior Brennan Kalinowski, also believe in the importance of voting this year. He declared that “It is one of the few freedoms that US citizens have to let our voices be heard. This year, more importantly, we have, not even arguably, the most controversial presidential election since the mid 19th century so it is extremely important that everyone gets out to vote.” 

But COVID-19 forces the 2020 election to operate under different conditions. Per The New York Times, 21% of states will mail ballots directly to all voters, 57% will allow absentee voting for all, and 22% require an excuse for absentee voting. In DC, Virginia, and Maryland no reason is required for those who want to vote by mail. 

Early voting has already begun and will continue until election day, November 3. If you haven’t yet requested a ballot, check for your polling place online. You should socially distance when you vote, but you MUST cast your ballot.

With each new presidential election comes a new generation of voters. This year’s new voters include members of Potomac’s class of 2021. Seniors Sophia Stein, Henry Boehm, and Sevan Scharpf will all be eligible voters for this presidential election, but plan to vote in different ways. 

Sophia said that she plans to vote by mail-in ballot, while Sevan and Henry will both vote in person. 

“The issues happening right now relating to the USPS make me worried my vote wouldn’t go in in time,” said Sevan, explaining why he will vote in person.

Mr. von Glahn also plans to vote in person. “I love it and believe the necessary precautions are being made,” he said.

In-person or mail-in, questions still persist around access to voting. Sophia and Henry think there is sufficient access, but Mr. von Glahn believes more can be done. 

“Voting should be easier for everyone — voting holiday, vote by mail, vote online, etc. are all easy reforms that should happen,” he said.

The new voting arrangements can be confusing, but fortunately, Mr. von Glahn shared some seasoned advice.

“Read, listen, and watch a variety of perspectives and sources. If you can, tune into the debates or listen to full political speeches. What the candidates say gets sliced and diced by the media and doesn’t always give a full or complete picture of what a candidate believes or their values. Also, don’t just read or follow news sources that you tend to agree with and fit with your worldview. Similarly, talk to friends and family that you might disagree with politically. Try to understand their perspective and ask them for sources of information. That being said, not all news sources are fully trustworthy,” he said. (For those wanting to ensure the credibility of their news sources, he shared a cool graphic.)  

“Double-check your registration and your polling location. If you plan to vote in person, go earlier. If you are voting by mail, do that ASAP. Talk to your friends and use social media to encourage others to vote. One way for citizens to have their voice heard is to vote. Young people often are not considered or engaged by politicians because they vote in the lowest numbers of any age group. Get informed, go vote, and bring your friends to vote too,” he said. 

Sevan also hopes that this election will fuel more young students to vote in other, non-presidential elections. 

“I think Potomac should encourage kids to vote and remind them of their rights more! The youth are often at the heart of political change, and it’s often a misconception that the presidential elections are the only ones that matter. This is damaging because there are so many equally important smaller-scale elections that people blow off,” he said.

Interviewed seniors and Mr. von Glahn all stressed that voting is a civic duty, whether it be an in person or mail-in ballot. Eligible voters, take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference in the U.S! Voting for the leader of our country is an incredible opportunity that not every nation offers—make the most of it and vote, vote, vote!