Young Americans are notorious for not voting.
For the 2016 election, only 46% of young adults from the ages of 18-29 voted, compared to 71% of people over the age of 65. In 2012, the numbers were similar.
However, that’s all changing for this election, despite the coronavirus pandemic. According to a youth poll from the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School, 18-29 year olds are significantly interested in the election, with the possibility to go out and vote at levels unseen since 2008. The poll found that 63% of young people will be voting this year, compared to 47% in 2016.
In Marion County, 703 people from the ages of 18-25 have already voted absentee or early voted in-person, said Brian Blair, the deputy director for the Marion County Board of Elections. Overall, 7,143 people have voted early so far in the county.
One of those people was Amber Alexander. The Ohio State University at Marion student voted early in-person. This is the first presidential election the 21-year-old from Marion has participated in.
“I took all precautions associated with going out, like wearing my mask, having hand sanitizer, maintaining 6 feet from everyone else at the polling place; I even brought my own pen just in case,” Alexander said via email. “This election is very important, and I wanted to make sure I could vote as soon and safely as I could.”
For president, Alexander chose Democratic Candidate Joe Biden. She wrote that Biden and Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris have plans and solutions for the problems many Americans are facing right now.
“From a non-bias examination, President Trump does not seem to understand the gravity of some of the problems facing the United States, like issues within our foreign policy, climate change, health care, and equality across the board,” Alexander said. We still have a lot of progress to be made, but I genuinely think that with Biden/Harris, we can start to shift our country into ‘a more perfect union’ so to speak and instill fundamental principles of genuine justice and equality for all.”
The senior and English major is also following the local elections, with state senate candidate Craig Swartz (D-Upper Sandusky) and state representative candidate Shannon Freshour (D) grabbing her attention.
Alexander said every election is important, but that this year’s election is significant because the U.S. is currently at a crossroads.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, there’s high tensions in foreign policy, there is systemic racism not only in our judicial system but in our neighborhoods, and inequality across the board,” she said. “2020 is pivotal because with how many seats there are to fill, from local seats, state seats, and the one in the Oval Office, and we have the capability to change everything. We can get rid of systems that are tired and don’t work, and start moving this country forward, but most importantly, together.”
Waiting until Election Day
Meanwhile, Taylor Merritt will be voting on Election Day. She said she feels safer casting her ballot then, as she is worried about mail-in voting. This election will be her first time voting.
“I guess this one seemed way more important to me because this election is a lot bigger than all the other ones, and I finally registered to vote,” Merritt said. “I found the time, and I’m glad it landed on a presidential election.”
Merritt, a 21-year-old business student at Marion Technical College, is voting for President Donald Trump, saying he is not a “career politician.”
“I think that he’s gotten more done in his four years than some of these other politicians have gotten done in their whole careers over 20, 30, 40 years,” she said.
“He has a lot of stamina. He’s faced criticism from all sides and has still been able to hold strong, and I think that says a lot about him and his leadership and his character.”
Regarding his handling of the pandemic, Merritt said Trump did the best job he could under the constantly changing information about the coronavirus.
“I don’t think there’s any more that you can do other than restricting travel across borders outside the United States and providing PPE,” she said. “I think people are expecting more out of him than what could be possible just because this virus is so new and just all over the place.”
A ‘well-rounded voter’
Like Alexander, 20-year-old Breanna Napper has already voted, casting her ballot in-person. The MTC engineering student has voted in local elections, but this is her first time voting in a presidential election.
Napper declined to say who she is voting for, but said she voted for someone that is “not a candidate of the few, but of the many.”
Napper is engaged in this election cycle. She said does not watch much TV news or read articles on social media but looks up election information through independent or university websites and databases.
“It’s hard to find the actual, good facts in comparison to making things up,” Napper said.
Along with the presidential race, the student follows the local races as well. Some of Napper’s favorites are Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey and Freshour.
“Not everything is just down to the president,” she said. “We have your representatives in the house, then you have your Senate. Those are the people who are creating the laws, so those are the large impact that most commonly goes overlooked.”
Napper said she strives to be a well-rounded voter, being open to Democrat and Republican candidates.
“I like voting, it’s fun,” she said. “I like hearing other people’s perspectives and understanding what they want to do for the community and why.”
Mistrust of the mailing system
OSU Marion mechanical engineering student John Neville also declined to say who is voting for, but said he is “looking at the productiveness of the character and how much they have impacted individual lives.” The 19-year-old voted in last year’s local elections, but this is his first time participating in the presidential election.
Neville is still deciding on whether to do early voting or just wait until Election Day. However, he will not be doing absentee voting.
“I don’t trust the information getting from my mailbox to the post office in a timely matter and if I have any documentation, whether that is actually valid,” he said. “I know not many ballots get docked from those authentication methods, it just that I don’t trust it.”
When it comes to the local elections in Marion County, Neville said he has not seen any information on the candidates but will research them before heading to the polls.
“I feel like this election is just as important as any other presidential election, which is actually a really high priority in general,” he said.
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