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Unable to vote but dialed in: Local teenager keeps a close eye on the 2020 elections

Anchorage 16-year-old turns basement into election central
Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 6:59 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anyone who thinks that their vote doesn’t matter or that politics isn’t worth paying attention to could learn a lot from someone like A.J. Schultz. At 16 years old, he won’t get to have an official say in this election, but that isn’t stopping him from paying close attention to the presidential election and then some.

"There’s an attitude among Generation Z that political things do not affect them and that is just fundamentally wrong in every sense of the word,” Schultz said.

Schultz said it all started with the Democratic primaries. He decided to tune in, and he said he’s been keeping up with the political climate ever since.

The election is another aspect of 2020 that Schultz calls “overwhelming.” He said he and other people his age see the way candidates and parties behave on the news and think the overall tone turns people off to politics.

“I think everybody can agree with me on that," he said. "To sum up 2020 in one word, it would be overwhelming, stressful and complicated. And that’s why it’s so important that people should be paying attention. Because that’s not going to change if we don’t.”

It’s not just the presidential race that he’s locked into. In his living room, he’s got a setup that may rival some political analysts.

He said he hasn’t changed the channel on the TV from the news in quite some time; there are two computers — each running a different election simulator; poster papers are taped to the wall for the state races; and on a giant whiteboard, a map is drawn out to monitor the general election results as they become available.

Even though there are news outlets that compile that information, he said he wants to keep track of it for himself for a couple of reasons. One, because he wants to, and two, because he’s foreseeing a very long counting process and he wants to be able to see all the results in front of him all at once.

With a newfound fire for democracy, he wishes he was able to participate. He said he sees a lot of policy he disagrees with and wants to be changed but doesn’t have a say.

Recalling the first debate, Schultz said he couldn’t believe he was watching two men running to be the leader of the free world interrupting and yelling at each other “like toddlers" during the first presidential debate this year.

Schultz said it’s fine for now because he’ll be able to vote in the next presidential election, as will many of his friends and other teenagers who are watching closely to the races right now.

“When we get to the polls in two to four years — when we’re all able to vote, expect a huge shakeup in the electorate, in the platform of debate, in the Overton window,” he said, “everything is going to shift when people my age are going to be allowed to vote."

As far as what happens in the election, Schultz said he wants the process to be “peaceful, smooth, respectful and mature.”

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