Teens create T-shirts because they can’t vote

Ben Clark

Thirteen-year-old Chris Rose considers himself a disenfranchised voter.

But to Chris and his friends, disenfranchised doesn’t have to mean silent. Due to the efforts of Chris’ friend Jake Chappelle, students at Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Ave., are doing all they can to influence this year’s presidential election outside of the voting booth.

Jake, an eighth grader at Haven, and his mother designed a shirt that reads, “If I Could Vote, I Would.” He and other Haven students wore the red, white and blue shirts last week and are planning on wearing them today to remind adults to do what they can’t.

“I heard on the radio about these kids who are allowed to vote, but they can’t, and it really sort of steamed me off because they’re deciding their future,” Jake said. “They could be deciding the leader of their country, but they’re not.”

Jake said this radio show prompted a conversation with Chris and Ethan James, another Haven eighth grader, and the three reached a consensus — they wish they could vote.

“There are other kids who sit around and they think that voting isn’t important,” Jake said. He will not be able to vote in this election and will turn 18 one month after the 2008 election. “It’s pretty upsetting knowing that I won’t be able to vote for eight years,” he said.

Haven student Sara Cochran said she wears the shirt because people who don’t vote are getting ripped off. She said voting is the easiest way to play an active role.

“If you want something to happen, sometimes people will talk about things and make statements, but won’t do anything,” Sara said.

All the students involved in making the shirt became interested in the election primarily because of their displeasure with President Bush.

“I want to get Bush out of the White House because I think he’s done a really bad job running this country,” Jake said.

Ethan said he fears Bush will reinstate the military draft — a decision that has him worried for himself and his 17-year-old brother.

But all agree that this sentiment doesn’t come from an overstated interest in politics. In fact, Chris said he typically does not even concern himself with academics. The students said they just regard voting as a simple way to be good citizens.

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