how first time voters are leading the resistance this November
i-D talks to teens across America who are voting for the first time.
“Vote them out” is a chant that has been ringing through streets around the country as young people have gathered to protest. From Brett Kavanaugh’s recent appointment to the Supreme Court to Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, the growing issues being faced by our country have ignited demonstrations by teens from Boston to Sacramento. Next month, they will finally have the opportunity to turn their rally cry into a reality and vote for the candidates they feel can change the political landscape.
Across small towns and college campuses, young people have been mobilizing their peers and registering to vote in record numbers so they can make their voices heard during the crucial midterm elections. To find out how first time voters are feeling ahead of casting their ballots, i-D talked to teens from around the country.
Moses Adams, 18, Arizona
How do you feel about voting for the first time?
When Trump was first elected, I was very frustrated and felt powerless. I remember thinking I can’t wait until I can vote and actually do something about this. Or not even vote, but just be old enough to get involved in politics. I was only 15. It feels like I can finally do something about it to not only to improve my own life, but also the people around me.
So the 2016 election made you want to be politically active?
My mom worked on the campaign for Obama during his first election. I remember being in the campaign office, when we lived in Pittsburgh. I went to Obama’s first inauguration, and that was pretty cool. Since my family was active, I was pretty active.
When Trump’s campaign was happening, I saw the hateful rhetoric that was going around, so I started to pay attention. It was stuff that was about me and my friends, horrible things about people I know. That’s when I thought this is a horrible guy. When he got elected and I got actively involved in watching the news every five seconds to see what he’s doing, so I can form a valid opinion when these topics come up.
Were you inspired by others your age who have become activists?
When the [Parkland shooting] happened I was in my Freshman year of college. Those kids were seniors in high school, which meant a lot of them were the same age as me, and they were making such big political statements, it motivated me. I thought OK maybe I can do this too or me and my friends can do this. I think seeing them be able to go head to head with adults on issues that adults think they don’t know anything about, just showed me and the rest of the country that we know what’s going on and we understand the problems.
A lot of people are hoping teens like you can fix a lot of issues in this country. How do you feel about that?
I feel like older people shouldn't rely on us because that is just putting it on to the next person because you don’t feel like dealing with the problem. No matter how old they are, they are more experienced than us, they need to be our voice. It’s the older generation’s responsibility to look out for the younger generation. It shouldn’t fall all on us. The people who know there is something wrong right now. It is their responsibility to make our future better too.
Michael Flom, 19, New York
How do you feel about voting for the first time?
I feel honored. I feel empowered. I feel responsible now. I think it is naive to say everyone has the right to vote, I don’t think that is true.
What are some of the issue that you care about?
Where to start. I would say gun control and abortion. But, also criminal justice reform, —literally everything— education, housing, healthcare. It is a cycle, systematic oppression is a real thing. I want my vote to help all of that.
Do you feel like a lot of your peers are becoming politically active?
I am very impressed with my generation as whole in terms of how outspoken and organized they are. I think that March For Our Lives movement is great example of kids killing it.
What changes are you hoping to make?
I like to think we can have an impact on everything. I am hoping to see change in a lot of different areas. Personally, I am hoping to effect the school to prison pipeline and criminal justice reform. I think somewhere down the line I’d like to work in public education and try to reform that.
Trisha Roy, 18, Ohio
How do you feel about voting for the first time in such a pivotal election?
Being able to vote for the first time is incredibly exciting. I firmly believe that the right to vote is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities that we have as citizens, especially in today’s political climate. The opportunity to finally exercise that right is pretty thrilling.
Have you always been interested in politics?
In the 2012 election, I began to form my own opinions. I remember watching the debates closely, asking questions every few minutes to better my understanding of the topics, and marching around my school in my “Cleveland Ba-Rocks!” shirt. I realized how important my voice was and subsequently, how important my vote was.
Did the 2016 presidential election change anything for you?
During the most recent presidential election, I worked as a fellow for nine months at my local campaign office for the Ohio Democratic Party. It was one of the most impactful experiences in my life, and I became more and more passionate about the political atmosphere in this nation. The results of the election took a toll on me and after a bit of healing, I focused my energy on mobilizing voters and educating myself on issues as thoroughly as possible.
Do you feel like your generation is going to fight to make a change in this country?
Whether it is young activists in the Black Lives Matter movement, Dream Defenders, March for Our Lives or even the millennials out canvassing and working to Get Out The Vote, the new level of political engagement across the aisle is inspiring. I really do believe that our generation, though burdened with the weight of picking up the pieces and then building up, can handle the challenge and will create positive change.
Madio Wallner, 19, Nevada
Are looking forward to voting for the first time?
I am incredibly excited and nervous to be voting for the first time. The fact that my first voting experience will be for a midterm election is significant. It contributes to my nerves because the average voter who participates in midterm elections must be more educated and involved because the elections are less publicized and energized than the presidential election.
How are you preparing?
I recently joined a club at Vassar called Democracy Matters. We are working on registering students, delivering absentee ballots and providing information about election day. I still have a lot to learn about the upcoming election, but I know that this organization will help me become more comfortable and knowledgeable about the process. I think that many students are planning on voting.
Do you feel your vote can make a difference?
I became hugely interested in politics during my senior year of high school because of a program called We The People. It is a nationwide competition where various high school teams compete at the local, state, and national level in mock congressional hearings. This program taught me so much about the United States government, from the founding era to contemporary issues. It educated me and got me excited about voting. Prior to this course I had no knowledge or interest in voting as I grew up in a household with a single mother where politics was completely irrelevant.
What do you hope to change?
The most important issue to me is reforming and strengthening the nation’s environmental policy. We need elected officials that prioritize environmental health over short term monetary gain. I would also like to see more protection for immigrants and progress on improving our system for gaining citizenship. I think that an increase in descriptive representation in every level of government is important in order to better address women’s and minority issues.
K.T., 18, Alabama
How do you feel about voting for the first time?
I have been anxiously waiting to vote for 10 years. I can remember being eight years old and closely following the 2008 Presidential election. I’m very thankful to have a mother who brought politics down to my level instead of assuming it was over my head. I went into the voting booth with her and watched her fill in the bubbles. We stayed up to watch the votes come in and celebrated together.
Do you think a lot of your peers will vote in the midterms?
It’s so strange to me when I see or hear of a young adult or teenager who is not planning on voting. I think everyone should use their voice and vote, even if it’s not for my political party or candidate. I see the projected numbers of young people voting and it makes me sad.
What are some issues that are important to you?
I am a Christian Democrat, which I know some believe is an oxymoron but it’s not to me. I do my best to follow in the ways of Jesus which I believe is love and acceptance of all people. I am a woman and I am a feminist. Because I am a female this current #MeToo movement has greatly affected me. I watched the Kavanaugh hearings and was appalled at some of the senators reactions. I am willing to fight for equality for myself and other women.
Do you think voting has the power to make an impact in this country?
I feel like our country is very divided and broken. Unfortunately I believe it will take more than one election to heal.
How do you feel about the fact that many people are relying on young people to make a change in this country?
At first it made me nervous thinking of some of the misinformed young adults I’ve encountered. But over the last year I’ve regained my faith in my generation, due mostly to social media accounts. Through that platform I have been connected to like minded young adults and stayed informed and enlightened. As crazy as this sounds Twitter has given me hope for the future.
Interviews have been condensed for clarity