Meet some of 2020’s first-time voters
Peyton Schuyler, a first year student at USF, barely made the cusp of being able to vote in this election. On October 5, four days before her home state of Idaho’s registration deadline, Schuyler turned 18.This day has been on her mind since the 2016 election. “I am very passionate about helping the environment and I believe that if we get four more years with the current president, the climate emergency will worsen to an irreversible point,” said the media studies major.
Senior Brigid Behrens sees voting as less of an option and more of an obligation. To ensure that her first vote for a presidential election is counted, Behrens, who said “climate change, racial justice and reproductive rights” were on her mind, mailed her ballot off a few weeks ago. “I have my fingers crossed that younger generations turn out to vote,” she said. “I have seen all sorts of political involvement from young people and am hoping that translates.”
Since 2016, over 15 million people have turned voting age, according to Tufts University’s CIRCLE.
Olivia Buch, another USF senior, said, “It has been so hard to have to watch our country be run on a platform of hate and violence and I am excited to be able to use my voice in another way to actively fight against that.”
After living in Shanghai for the past 15 years, Chandler Mathew had to reestablish residency in this country before registering to vote. Born in Dallas, Mathew is an American citizen even though he’s lived most of his life in China. He went to the Department of Motor Vehicles, applied for a California ID card, and then registered and requested a ballot. Luckily for Mathew, he went through this before Covid-19 shutdowns in California. He said, “Had my family not chosen to move here or if I decided to wait to go to DMV, Covid would have stopped me from getting established residency and identification.”
Living over 6,000 miles away in 2016, Mathew, 21, sat out that election because he did not think his vote would have an impact, but this time he has mailed in his ballot already. “Witnessing my peers have the direction of their lives depended on the policies of the people holding office, finally made me realize that although politics seemed far away for me, that was not the case for others,” he said. “I now know it is important to cast my vote to help those who need it.”
Why are some college students not voting this year?
While voters under 30 are currently voting in droves, the majority of eligible 18 to 29-year-olds are unlikely to vote, and many college students have reasons they are electing to not vote at all.
Victoria Walker, a student at Soka University of America in Orange County, is registered to vote in California, but chose to not vote because they said they did not want to lend legitimacy to the United States, which they described as being “an illegitimate, white supremacist, settler, colonial state.”
Over text, they said, “Racism and white supremacy is ingrained in the country; so as long as [the U.S.] exists, it will continue to be these things. Specifically regarding the presidential election, both candidates have been racist and shown a complete disregard to Black lives globally.” They identified community aid efforts, such as the Southern California-based Long Beach People’s Collective and Echo Park Rise Up, as avenues for change and civic engagement outside of the traditional electoral process.
Walker also criticized those who frame non-voters as “selfish” and “privileged,” pointing out that non-voters are largely lower-income people of color they described as not feeling represented by either major party candidate.
Morgan Gutierrez, a student at Riverside City College, said he wasn’t voting because he lacks knowledge about state propositions and the presidential candidates’ platforms. Gutierrez, a registered voter in California, said he was confused by the language of several propositions and the “clashing messages” coming from proponents and opponents of several issues. He said, “I wasn’t offered any sort of help to understand better what was on the ballot.”
While Gutierrez acknowledged that he could have been better equipped to vote by researching aspects of the ballot he didn’t understand, he said he wasn’t eager to vote in this election anyway, expressing dissatisfaction with both Trump and Biden. He said, “I’m not too concerned about not voting. Honestly, I feel the situation we’re in only leads to a lesser of two evils, and as bad as it may sound, I’d rather not choose at all.”
For more coverage on youth voting, read: The Year of the Youth