Climate change and student loans top issues for young voters

The fight against climate change is one of the most important issues focused on by three young voters in the southwestern suburbs ahead of the November election.

Yelena St. Clair, 19, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, said the upcoming election will be her time to vote and the most important issue for her is the environment and agriculture.

St. Clair said she recently studied the positions of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and Republican candidate Kathy Salvi on the 2023 Farm Bill, a bill that is updated every five years to address ways agricultural livelihoods, how food is grown and what foods are grown.

Reading what each candidate said, St. Clair said she felt torn because Duckworth relied on her previous vote on the bill, but Salvi expressed her willingness to work with farmers and businesses. agricultural experts.

“It’s something that tears me apart, because I want someone who will protect the environment, who will protect our agricultural sector and make sure it’s sustainable…but I also appreciate the willingness to listen real people in those industries rather than just being a politician about it and doing what you think is best,” St. Clair said.

Chloe Shapkauski, 17, a senior at Tinley Park High School, said she was looking for candidates who wanted to protect the environment and “think about the future, just bring it up, put the idea in our heads”.

Shapkauski, who is a first-time voter, said she is looking for candidates who support water conservation in the United States and around the world. Ultimately, she said she would support candidates who push for regulations or goals, such as making an improvement of any kind by 2030.

“In 2030 they’ll be middle-aged or older, and I’ll still be looking to settle into that world,” Shapkauski said.

Wiktoria Barnas, 19, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, said she would like to see tougher legislation preventing businesses and corporations from negatively affecting climate change. She would also like the candidates to support the Green New Deal with a plan to fight climate change.

St. Clair, of Alsip, said another issue important to her is voter fraud, and she is specifically looking for what candidates have said about the 2020 election.

Former President Donald Trump has claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent, which the US Department of Justice has found to be false. While Americans should pay attention to elections and ask questions, lying about voter fraud polarizes the nation and hurts democracy, St. Clair said.

“Having candidates who could continue to sow distrust in the American political system, especially at the local level, will be really detrimental to future elections,” she said.

The final issue St. Clair focuses on is the First Amendment, known as the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which would add the right to organize and bargain collectively to the Illinois Constitution.

Some of his classmates and friends plan to work in a commercial field, so St. Clair said the possibility of unionizing is an issue that will affect their future.

“America is its workers, and to think that some workers still in the 21st century cannot unionize is a shocking thought,” St. Clair said.

Wiktoria Barnas, 19, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, said the top issues for her were climate change, student debt and the Supreme Court.

Shapkauski, of Tinley Park, said she is looking for candidates who support changing the US healthcare system and reducing its costs for surgeries, general care and prescriptions.

“Being healthy and living is a right, and it should not be held back by high prices or even inflation. The government should help with that,” Shapkauski said.

Finally, Shapkauski said she would support an applicant who wants to improve the student loan application process because the application asks for sources of income but does not consider other debts, such as mortgages.

“I think they should start taking that into account, like trying to give aid or grants,” Shapkauski said.

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Barnas, from Worth, also said it was important to tackle student debt and the cancellation of student loans. She said she would like to see a permanent student loan forgiveness plan based on household income levels. Next, she would like to see legislation to adjust the interest rate on student loans “starting with more people who need the help the most,” Barnas said.

Finally, Barnas said she was researching Supreme Court justice nominations and how members of Congress voted for recent justices.

Barnas said she aligns herself more with the Democratic Party on the majority of issues, especially social issues. But, she said she doesn’t fully identify as a Democrat because she tends to agree with Republicans when it comes to economic and fiscal issues.

As for connecting with young voters, St. Clair said that instead of focusing so much on social media, it would be more helpful to send the candidate or a representative of the candidate to speak directly to young voters.

Shapkauski agreed, saying she would rather see political ads about what a candidate plans to do in office, not their resume.

Barnas said speaking directly to young voters, even going door-to-door, would be a more beneficial way to connect.

“Having that personal connection can sometimes make all the difference,” Barnas said.

About Judith J. George

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