First time voters photo

Students line up all wearing "I Voted Today" stickers in Witherspoon on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.

First-time voters are preparing to cast their vote as Election Day gets closer. While most new voters interviewed by Technician felt that neither candidate is fit for office, many realize the significance of the 2020 elections and still plan to head to the voting booths on Nov. 3. 

Mireille Soss, a first-year studying nutrition, said that she does not feel excited to vote, but she does feel that voting is her responsibility and civic duty. 

“It would be foolish not to since who’s in office has a direct effect on those I care about,” Soss said. “I do not believe that there is a certain way that the rest of my age group feels. Some people are choosing not to vote because they want to ‘stay out of politics’. I know other people who are very passionate. It really just depends on the person.”

Zoe Patterson, a first-year studying fashion and textiles management, agrees. She said she is not apathetic about voting because she knows how important the presidential election is. Patterson said she believes many first-time voters may be more motivated to vote in this election because a lot is at stake.

Jenna Marks, a first-year studying environmental science, said she believes that many people her age feel nervous to vote.

“A lot of people I know are Democrat but have grown up with parents who are Republican, so there are some conflicting viewpoints that cause anxiety around voting,” Marks said.

While some first-time voters may not be excited, the current political atmosphere prompts many young adults to participate in the election. 

“I think voters are more motivated because politics are starting to affect our personal lives, now more than ever, because of COVID-19,” Soss said. “Democrats and Republicans now have such opposite views and more differences than in previous years, and not as many people would be fine with either candidate winning.”

Margaret Ann Edel, a first-year studying animal science, said while her peers are motivated to vote, many roadblocks stand in the way of casting a ballot for first-time voters, including being registered to vote. Many of the students interviewed chose to register through the DMV, when they get their driver's licenses; however, some students don’t receive that opportunity.

“I registered through the N.C. government website in early July 2020, but when I checked my registration status again in September, multiple different registration sites told me that I wasn’t actually registered,” Edel said. “I registered again, but this process was a bit confusing and could be a big problem for first-time voters if the online registration applications don’t always go through.”

Patterson believes the biggest obstacle for young voters could be the lack of motivation to form individual opinions.

“New voters have to learn to form their own individual opinions separate from their parents,” Patterson said. “They have to be motivated to learn the right information, and they need to be motivated to register and actually vote.” 

Marks said she believes the influence of the media may prove to be a large obstacle for first-time voters trying to build individual opinions and beliefs for young voters. 

“I believe the misinformation of the internet and media makes it increasingly difficult to know who to vote for, especially for young voters,” Marks said. 

Many of the students interviewed felt that voting for a third-party candidate was a wasted vote. Gabe Williams, a first-year studying electrical engineering and linguistics, said he credits this to the overwhelming authority of the two-party system. 

“Unless any of the third-party candidates gain a significant backing, it does feel like a wasted vote,” Williams said. “The dominance of the two-party system has made third-party candidates feel very underwhelming in the presidential election.”

Edel said she believes that in this particular presidential election, she is casting her ballot in hopes of replacing the current president. She said that if she had voted for a third-party candidate, she would’ve wasted her vote.

Marks also said she considered voting third party in the presidential election because she disliked both candidates, but changed her mind. 

Instead of voting based on party affiliation, young voters like Marks have chosen to register as an independent and vote based on their own research of the candidates and which current political issues they believe matter. 

“I am voting based on which candidate I dislike the least, considering I don’t like either option,” Marks said. “I did research through watching the news and reading articles and then basing that information on what I have learned in classes, such as economics and government, to determine who I believe would benefit the country most.”

Williams says that although he voted for more Democratic candidates, he voted based on his own judgement and not by party affiliation.

“For the larger positions, such as president and vice president, I had an opinion beforehand and acted on my knowledge of the candidates,” Williams said. “For smaller offices, such as the school board, I looked up transcripts of meetings and interviews to get a better grasp of the candidates. I didn’t feel comfortable blindly voting for strictly one party or the other, so some brief research to learn more was super helpful.”

Young voters like Marks said that the issues they are most concerned about include racial equality, climate change education, immigration policy, LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive rights for women.

“One issue that was a deciding factor for me was the protection of women’s rights,” Marks said.  “Planned Parenthood is crucial to the quality of life for women all across the country, and without sufficient funds, lives will be put at risk. This is something that needs to be taken into consideration when voting for our next president.”

Similar to Marks, Edel said she believes that racial equality and equity is one of the most important issues in the 2020 election, feeling that the next president should acknowledge the mistreatment of minorities and institute changes to benefit them. 

“COVID-19 is another important issue, as the president will be in charge of handling the way our country deals with the virus and attempts to control it,” Edel said.

All the new voters interviewed agreed that, while local elections are important, they feel they do not have as big of an impact as state and federal elections. Soss said that he thinks the federal government elections for president and Congress will more directly impact citizens’ everyday lives.

“I think the state elections are just as important, but I do not feel that the local ones are,” Soss said. “The local government does not have enough power to make any dramatic changes that will impact me personally.”

Edel said that while state and local elections are still significant, to her, federal elections are dominant and yield the most opportunity for change

“I do not believe that local and state elections are just important since the federal government has so much more power and control over the people,” Edel said. “However, I still believe that voting in all elections is the duty of all American citizens.”