Four young Americans, representing three states and both sides of the political aisle, discuss what it meant to them to vote in their first presidential election.
On the day before the election, MSNBC noted, "Forty-six million young Americans between the ages of 18-29 are eligible to vote this election. Many are casting their ballots for the first time, having turned 18 before Election Day."
Would those young Americans cast their votes? "A big question heading into Election Day was whether younger voters would show up at the polls," CNN stated, and then reported that "More of them did than last time. According to national exit polls, 18-29 year olds increased from 17% to 18% of the electorate from 2004 to 2008. They made up 19% of the electorate this time around. That jump in size from four years ago made up for the president's drop in capturing the youth vote, from 66% in 2008 to 60% in 2012."
Four of those young, first-time voters shared their experiences with Digital Journal. They were asked to describe why they voted/what got them to the polls, what it felt like to vote in a presidential election for the first time, and describe where they voted and what, if any, problems they encountered such as long lines.
Election results posted by CNN indicate that Mr. Romney won the State of Arkansas, and its 6 electoral votes, by a margin of 61 percent to 37 percent. Alexandra Brassart, 20, is a resident of Bentonville, Arkansas. Brassart said that she is a "student at Northwest Arkansas Community College where I am studying to become a teacher."
Courtesy of Alexandra Brassart
Alexandra Brassart, 20, of Bentonville, Ark.
When asked what got this first-time voter to the polls, Brassart's answer reflected an "Opinion" piece written for The Washington Post by Anya Kamenetz. Kamenetz argued that "young voters aren’t feeling Obama-mania this time" and noted that Romney might connect with young voters because of his business background and economic message.
"I voted for the first time because I wanted to try to help influence our country the best I could," said Brassart. "Although Obama is a good leader, I believe Romney could pull us out of debt; thus, I voted for him."
Asked to describe the first-time voting experience, Brassart said, "I was nervous at first about voting because I didn't know what to do but the assistant at the polls was very helpful." Brassart voted at a Presbyterian church in Bentonville and said, "There was a long line which I waited in for a hour, but when I got to the voting machine I suffered no difficulty."
Jake Wyatt, 19, is also a student at Northwest Arkansas Community College and resident of Bentonville, Ark. Wyatt states that he "is currently pursuing an Associates of Arts with intent to transfer to University of Arkansas."
Wyatt describes himself as a "full-time student, part-time worker" and an active Democrat. "I am a member of the Democratic Central Committee of Benton County, The Benton County Democrats, as well as The Frisco Progressives," Wyatt said. "I am also working with a few great people on starting a Benton County Young Democrats chapter. I did serve as one of the 8 delegates at the Democratic State Convention representing Benton County. From there I was elected as an official representative to the state Democratic Party representing Benton County."
Courtesy of Jake Wyatt
Jake Wyatt, 19, of Bentonville, Ark.
Responding to the question about why he voted/what got him to the polls, Wyatt said:
I voted to keep moving our country forward, not to return us to very similar policies that provoked a lot of the economic problems we have today. I voted to keep putting into place policies that help and promote equality between all Americans not just a minority. I voted to keep investing into education and make sure every child has a chance at a great education and a chance to pursue the American Dream. I voted to make sure that every American no matter what their pre-existing condition is or what their level of income is, have the ability to obtain medical care and affordable health insurance. I believe it is important to look out for a nation as a whole and continue to keep doing so. I voted for a second term for our current President, Barack Obama.
Wyatt was one of the many early voters in Election 2012. "I early voted at a local bank in Bentonville," said Wyatt. "Surprisingly there was no line and I was in and out very quickly."
As reported by CNN, Mr. Romney won the State of Arizona, and its 11 electoral votes, by a margin of 55 percent o 44 percent. Meg Morita, 20, is a resident of Tucson, Arizona. Morita is a student at University of Arizona where she has a Physiology major with Spanish, Japanese and Chemistry minors.
Courtesy of Meg Morita
Meg Morita, 20, of Tucson, Arizona.
When describing why she voted, Morita said, "I support Barack Obama 100% because I agree with everything he has planned for our country. I grew up in Japan with universal health care and have witnessed on a daily basis that it 100% works. There was no way he could have led this country out of the mess he inherited in his first term and he was a great president, so I believe that he has the power to make this country a better place with a stable economy this term."
Morita described what it felt like to vote in a presidential election for the first time in this way, saying, "It felt very rewarding knowing that I have the opportunity to vote in the presidential election and voice my opinion as a citizen of the United States."
As a Democrat in majority Republican state, Morita felt the tension on election day. "The majority of the citizens here, whether they’re college students or local citizens, are Republicans," said Morita. "All day at school and everywhere else I went to, people were bashing on Obama so it was really annoying."
As reported by CNN, Pres. Obama won the State of California, and its 55 electoral votes, by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent. Claire Donald, 18, lives in Hollywood, California and noted that she is living there in order to "pursue modeling and acting."
Why did Donald vote? "I voted because I think it is an incredible right that we have as Americans," she said. "We are so lucky to be able to freely voice our opinions. This was my first time to vote and I feel like so many people have fought to give me this opportunity not only as an American but as a woman to vote. I want to have a say in the direction of our country. I voted for Obama."
Courtesy of Claire Donald
Claire Donald, 18, of Hollywood, Calif.
Donald was proud to be a first-time voter and told people so. "It was such an amazing feeling to vote," said Donald. "I told every person I came across, from the person who greeted me at the door, to the person who handed me my ballot. I let everyone know, this is my first time to vote! It's a powerful feeling, like you're doing something so important, which you are when you vote. I feel like this is such an important election, too, because our country is in such a fragile state and whoever takes office can either make it strong again, or move it back."
Donald was home when the election results were coming in and describes the event in this way, saying, "Watching the TV when I was putting my dishes away and seeing Brian Williams say 'Wait wait wait…' and then a picture of a blue Ohio and Obama pops on screen followed by a picture of Obama and a statement that he had been elected as the 44th president…that was amazing. I had a part in that, one of those votes was mine. I ran down the hall and gave a high five to the front desk man at my building, and, yes, I cried."
As opinion writer Anya Kamenetz stated, "In the end, young people are still a natural constituency for the president. Obama can reignite our passion by promising a fresh start and tapping into the urge for collective self-determination seen in last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement."