First Time Voters Share Feelings on Journey to the Ballot Box

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From left to right, first time voters David R. Lee Jr., Janiyah Brown, and Espeana Green. (Courtesy Photos)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

First time voters are projected to be key in the 2020 election, and young people are making their voices heard.

According to PBS Newshour, of the 50 million people who had voted by Oct. 25, five million were between the ages of 18-29. The diverse, political-label fluid and highly educated group of Generation Z’ers, voters 18-23, not to be confused with the slowly aging millennial population, are particularly important in the 2020 election. 

“It is a generation that cares about public problems, wants to solve public problems, and most importantly, sees politics or the use of political institutions as a way to solve those problems,” said Elizabeth Matto, associate research professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, according to PBS Newshour.  

Many first time voters, were excited to take part in their civic duties.

“It felt really good to be a first time voter, I felt like I was making a really great contribution to my country even though I’m only one peron, I felt as if me voting helped in a very big way anyway,” said Janiyah Brown, who went with her family to the polls.

“My family and I went down to a  local gym and voted there.  It wasn’t many people when we went, so it was a fairly quick process,” she added.

Similar to sentiments held by many in the preceding millennial generation, some Gen Z’ers are not necessarily excited about any of the presidential candidates or the voting system, however, those placing ballots are doing so to ensure they are exercising civic duties for which their ancestors fought and even died.

“I have a pretty tricky mindset when it comes to voting because it’s not the process that it should be. Every level to it is performative and oppressive from registration until the moment election results are announced,” first time presidential election voter and Boston University sophomore Espeana Green told the AFRO. “However, because people that look like me and my family… are disenfranchised and can not use their RIGHT to vote, I have a moral obligation.”

Brown also shared that she voted because of her ancestors’ fight for the right to place a ballot.

“I think voting is important because it predicts how the chosen president will help out the country.  It’s even more important to me since my people weren’t able to vote for the longest time and had to fight very hard in order to be able to do this small act, so being able to go and make a difference was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt,” Brown said.

Once people make it to the polls, some voter suppression concerns are about long lines, confusing voting processes and mean poll workers. However, positive poll experiences can make for a completely fulfilling voting process.

“The Black women at the polls gave me so much love and encouragement,” first time voter David R. Lee Jr. told the AFRO. “I felt empowered,” the Georgia Tech freshman studying Industrial Engineering added.