In this historic election, first time voters will help decide whether California will legalize recreational marijuana and repeal the death penalty and whether our next president will be the first woman to hold the position or the first reality star.
Millennial voters have the potential to cast 31 percent of the total ballots. This year has broken records for voter registration and ushered in an era where millennials are now tied with baby boomers for the largest group of eligible voters in the country. The election’s historical value is rivaled only by the divisiveness and scandal of the campaigns. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that the 2016 presidential race has made 62 percent of Americans less proud of the country. That’s the political landscape first-time voters are cutting their teeth on.
A few SF State students opened up about the unique experience of being first-time voters in this particular election.
John Dulalas pointed out the difference between now and when Obama was first elected. The 21-year-old criminal justice major said he would have been more excited to vote in 2008.
“There were good people back in the day,” Dulalas said. “It’s very controversial with Hillary and Trump. I think some military guys would vote for Hillary because they want to go to war and get that money,” he said. Dulalas feels he has a lot at stake as a military reservist. But in his opinion, nothing good can come from either candidate and he’d rather vote for an independent.
The numerous propositions and ads have left him uncertain about how to vote. “Say yes, say no – I don’t even know anymore,” Dulalas said.
Andrea Zelaya, 19, looked forward to her first time in the voting booth in spite of the challenges of this election.
“To be honest, it’s been difficult, but you have to compromise at this point,” Zelaya said. “I feel like it’s not fair that I’m given these choices and I can’t really do anything about it.”
Even so, the SF State student is planning to vote for Clinton on Tuesday. Zelaya says the most exciting part is finally having an official say in how the government works.
“I guess the scariest is waiting to see the outcome,” Zelaya said.
Michael Cox has been waiting to vote for years and has paid close attention to many of the different races and propositions that will be soon be decided.
“I get to finally vote but it’s such a bum election year with my candidates,” Cox said. The 22-year-old just missed the birthday cutoff required to vote in 2012.
He takes specific issue with the vice presidential picks for being forgettable and stereotypical.
“I barely remember their names and I read them all the time,” Cox said. “I could replace them with any white adult male I’ve met in my life.”
Both sides of the soda tax and death penalty debates interest the business major. He agrees with the 1 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages but also feels like it targets a specific percentage of the population. Cox thinks it’s unfair that sweetened coffee shop drinks won’t be equally taxed.
He is also divided about whether to vote for repeal or revision to the death penalty in California. Although he prefers to maintain the death penalty on some level, he doesn’t believe it’s been an effective deterrent.
But Cox feels his real impact isn’t in the presidential race or the many propositions.
“I think the supervisor race is where my vote power will really go into being an actual factor,” Cox said. “Things like that will affect the majority of people who still live in San Francisco.” He supports progressives running that have adopted tenant protection platforms.
Although levels of excitement are relatively low among first-time voters in this campaign, at least Cox, Zelaya and Dulalas still plan to take first their turn at having a say. The country may not have the choices it wants but as Zelaya said, you just have to show up and “vote yes and no.”