First time presidential voters share their thoughts on the election

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Sarasota County vote by mail materials.

The 2020 presidential election has been chaotic. The majority of New College students are exercising their right to vote in a presidential election for the first time this year and emotions are running high. Students are feeling overwhelmed and worried, but glad to cast their ballots. No student interviewed felt enthusiastic about former Vice President Joe Biden’s politics, but all agreed that their dislike of President Donald Trump outweighed the lack of enthusiasm for Biden. 

Many New College students are registered to vote in Florida, which is a swing state. Florida has 29 electoral votes which is tied with New York for the third largest number in the nation. As Florida is an undecided state with a close race between the two candidates, Floridian voters are especially important. 

As of Oct. 30, over 229,000 American citizens have died according to the New York Times. COVID-19 is affecting the ways that people are voting. More people have elected to vote by mail rather than casting their vote in person this year. This will likely cause delays in the election results, causing even more uncertainty and anxiety. This, and a multitude of other hot-button issues, are sure to make this election memorable. 

Third-year student and president of New College Democrats Ellie Young stressed the importance of voting down the ticket, including local elections. Young stated that local elections are more important for issues that directly affect students such as abortion rights, police presence and New College’s independence. The New College Democrats are New College’s official chapter of the College Democrats of America, which is chartered under the Democratic National Committee. Their goal is to get students “involved with real progressive political action in the field” by partnering with local Democratic chapters. 

Young voted by mail for Biden because “a vote for anyone else is a vote to enable fascism!” When dropping her ballot at Supervisor of Elections office in Sarasota, Young said it was “anticlimactic and expected it to be more valiant than it really was, as [she] waited 4 years to vote against Trump.” Her previous experience with New College Democrats has made her realize the importance of “voting blue even when candidates do not excite her” because when voters “don’t take the effort to vote for boring candidates, the people [who get elected] instead are the ones backed by large corporations.” Young reminds students to reach out to New College Democrats if there are any questions about voting or the election process. 

On the other hand, second-year student Claire Thomas said that she felt “very powerful” when she dropped her ballot in the mail, especially since she is registered in Florida. Thomas voted for Biden although she does not agree with all of his politics.  She, like Young, views this election as “Americans against fascism” and believes that “Biden is the only person who can defeat Trump.”

Third-year Becca Hadwen, who also voted by mail in Florida, also expressed dislike for Biden and Harris, but believes that “they can be a doorway to something better than [Trump’s presidency]. They noted that he has “derailed news media since day one and openly quashed any form of dissent.” Hadwen understands the importance of voting, but feels neutral about it, stating that it is “not the center of their activism by any means.” 

Third year Kai Hall, said “fuck Biden” but still voted for him since “he wants to keep existing and having rights.” He isn’t sure how much good his vote will do in Florida, but he “wants it to mean something.”  Hall spoke about his distrust in the system and understands why some people feel that not voting makes more of a statement than voting does. 

Both Hall and third-year Hope Sandlin spoke about voter suppression and how the system is rigged to work against certain people. They both understand how this can be demoralizing and make people believe that their vote doesn’t matter. 

However, Sandlin said she thinks that “it can be dangerous to think this way” and that if everyone thinks that way, “nothing is going to get done.” She also disagrees with Biden on many issues but said that “Trump is a nightmare and a terrible prospect for president.” Sandlin said would prefer “just about anyone else” in the Oval Office. 

Climate change is the most important issue for Sandlin. Sandlin said she does not appreciate that Trump and Pence attempt to downplay climate change or deny that it is caused by humans. She “cannot in good conscious vote for someone who doesn’t care about the fate of the planet.” 

Sandlin’s mom filled out her voter registration paperwork for her while she was out of town, so she was originally registered as a Republican. However, after extensive research on the official party platforms, she decided to register as a Democrat. Ideally, she would be an Independent, but wanted to have a say in the Democratic primary. Since Florida is a closed primary state, she had to be a registered Democrat to do so. There is a proposed amendment on this year’s ballot that could change this for future elections. 

Sandlin also spoke about her dislike of the way politicians have been treated lately. She thinks that politicians are viewed more like celebrities than civil servants. Sandlin said she does not think people should be “fawning over [politicians] since their whole job is to serve and represent us.” Sandlin said that lately she has felt like people have been getting caught up in politician’s personalities rather than focusing on their stances and beliefs. 

Fourth year Hunt Sparra, who also voted for Biden by mail in Florida, thinks more highly of Biden. He “mostly agrees with Biden’s tone and policies” though he is concerned about Biden’s history with women. However, his dislike for Trump’s “rhetoric, policies, and general handling of democracy” greatly outweighs that concern. Sparra admitted that he is worried about Florida’s history of voter suppression and problems with accurately counting votes. Still, he asks others to vote and warns them not to “leave it to fate!” 

The election season has made Sparra feel a wide range of emotions. He was disappointed when his preferred Democratic candidate, Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race, but Sparra said he was excited once he “joined the Biden bandwagon.” He switches between being optimistic and pessimistic about the race and said he felt “disillusioned when actually voting.” Sparra also said he is worried about possible civil unrest after the election, regardless of the outcome. 

Thomas also fears that “supporters of the losing candidate will not take no for an answer and that people will die.” She doesn’t know what people, specifically Trump supporters, are capable of. She is especially concerned that they will invoke their Second Amendment right and create dangerous situations. 

Visiting student Catelyn Errington agrees and is worried about Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transition of power. Her emotions have also been “all over the place” throughout the course of the election. Errington said she does not completely agree with Biden, but voted for him by mail in Louisiana. While she also urges people to protest, contact legislators, and to promote candidates and issues on social media, Errington said she knows that “there is no guarantee that she can change anyone else’s mind.” She was “proud to do her duty as an American citizen” and said that voting is “the biggest power we have.”

Though no interviewed student seemed particularly excited about the Biden and Harris ticket, they were all vocal in their distaste for Trump. It is a situation of a “lesser of two evils” rather than true support of one candidate over the other. All of the interviewed speakers were at least a little concerned about the amount of impact that their one vote would make, but felt strongly that voting was the right thing to do.

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