EDITORIAL: Why Students Need to Care About 2016 Election

By: Joel Bryant

The lack of interest young people show in the 2016 presidential election is disturbing to me. With college on the horizon, my senior peers seem to be well invested into the idea of becoming and living as adults. We are excited about the opportunity to be independently productive members of society and the chance to take on the responsibilities that have been deemed too mature for us to handle. One task that adults-in-transition don’t seem to anticipate is their ability to vote in elections of all kinds, but for the sake of this argument, the upcoming presidential election.

Of course, there is a certain percentage of the young population that is invested and looking forward to the general election. Unfortunately, a solid portion of these people seem to have latched onto one candidate from the beginning and refuse to look into other possibilities based on my interactions with them.

Essentially, the entirety of the class of 2016 will be able to register and vote in the upcoming election. More specifically, those who will be 18 years old by November 8th will not only be able to vote in the general election but in the primaries, as well. Like any presidential election, 2016 will have a larger impact on young people than it does the middle-aged or senior citizens. For this reason, I believe that it is imperative that young people become far more politically active than they generally are.  

However, it is not well known that this year’s presidential election will have higher ramifications on young adults than average because of one reason: the Supreme Court. As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court dictates how and if various laws are dictated. Furthermore, the nine justices are the ultimate authority on the Constitution. Some experts on the United States government would argue that they are the most powerful individuals in the nation.

Understanding the power the Supreme Court justices would wield, the framers of the Constitution placed measures that have ensured that the rulings of the Court would remain consistent over a long period of time. Famously, Article III, Section I of the Constitution enables the justices to maintain their position for as long as they live, as long as they exercise “good behaviour.”    

How does this relate to the upcoming presidential election? Under the Constitution, the power to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court belongs to the president. As of right now, four of the nine justices are over the age of 77. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82, Antonin Scalia is 79, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Stephen Breyer is 77. On inauguration day, these four will be 78-84. By the time the next president’s first term ends, they will be 82-88. Should that president get reelected, these justices would be 86-92 by the end of the succeeding term. This means that, potentially, the next President of the United States would have to fill up to four vacancies in the top court of the nation.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that two of the vacancies will need to be filled over the next four years. It is important to note that Justice Ginsburg may step down before President Obama’s term ends so that she can ensure that her replacement is of the same liberal mindset. Depending on which justices would need to be replaced, the new appointees could significantly affect the balance of mindsets that has been established over the past decade.

supreme court
The current Supreme Court is evenly split between Liberals and Conservatives (via Illinois Review)

If two justices need to be replaced, the party who wins in November will likely be the beneficiaries of a serious ideological advantage in the Supreme Court. Such an advantage will have an incredible impact on the United States judiciary system, lawmaking, and law enforcement for many years to come. Of course, this all depends on who wins the White House.  

Being aware of the impending judgement the next president will face may cause some to reevaluate who they support. This is especially true if that candidate has shown a tendency to change positions over the years. Some will view politicians who flip and flop around the major issues as a risk not worth taking. 

Young people of both liberal and conservative mindsets need to realize the significance this election will have for years to come through the process of judicial nomination. Whichever policy the next president institutes truly pales in comparison to how a new Supreme Court could alter America as we know it.

(Age statistics from the Boston Herald)