It’s no secret that the 2020 election has been and will be unique compared to others in modern history. Amidst a pandemic and historic economic crisis, the issues facing voters have perhaps never been so varied and complex in living memory.
An experience that is already stressful for many new voters is now even more complicated, so the Daily Lobo sat down with five University of New Mexico first-time student voters to get an account of their experiences.
Sophomores Jordynn Sills and JahJett-Lyn Chavez both shared mixed views on the election.
“I’m definitely excited to vote for the first time and be a part of something this big, but now that (the election is) actually here, I’m not a big fan of the candidates,” Sills said.
Chavez described her first voting experience as “the messiest, yet most exciting moment in my nearly adult life.”
Chavez’s level of excitement was shared by freshman Aarya Patel, who said voting is a big deal. But like others, he found himself let down with the two major party choices in front of him in the presidential race.
In contrast, sophomore Jacob Griego said the uncertainty surrounding the outcome at the ballot box outweighs whatever excitement he might have felt toward casting his first vote.
“I’m too worried about the election to be excited,” Griego said. “I’m happy that I finally get to put my opinion into the world, make a difference in my own way and have my voice finally be heard, but there’s a lot of paranoia.”
As for senior Lizzie Wilkinson, the decision of whether to vote at all was one she found herself grappling with.
“I was pretty conflicted on whether or not I really, really wanted to vote,” Wilkinson said. “In my opinion, I really don’t agree with either Trump or Biden’s policies — I didn’t want to vote for someone just because they were (aligned with) a certain party.”
Eventually, Wilkinson determined that her perceived duty to remove Trump from office outweighed her disdain for the other candidate.
When it came to the major issues facing the nation this election season, these first-time voters had a wide range of opinions.
Sills focused on the overarching issues in which the country has been embroiled — specifically the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent racial inequality protests that have been taking place across the United States.
Griego and Patel also felt that racial inequality is a major issue, and Patel highlighted the need for racial reform, specifically in regard to law enforcement.
“There’s so much racism that is allowed to live in this world and who is supposed to (be) the leader of what (is) considered to be the melting pot of the world,” Griego said in reference to Trump.
Griego went on to say that he’s against Trump’s dismissal of the Black Lives Matter movement, citing the president’s unwillingness to support the efforts of Black Americans fighting to receive equal treatment in the United States.
“(The president) is calling racists ‘very good people’ and condemning Black Lives Matter, when African Americans are fighting for their right to have their voice heard and be respected as a human being,” Griego said.
Chavez spoke about the longstanding conflicts taking place in the Middle East and wondered when and if there is an end to the unrest in sight and if either candidate has a plan to achieve peace.
“Where are we when it comes to the ongoing battle that is going on in the Middle East?” Chavez asked. “How is that going right now, and what are we going to do about it?”
Wilkinson questioned the major policies presented by both candidates, reflecting on her mixed feelings to vote.
While the Biden/Harris ticket falls within her political party, Wilkinson was still at odds with the policies presented by the two Democratic candidates. In particular, Wilkinson questioned Harris’ incarceration record when she served as California’s attorney general.
“There’s certain things I agree with (Biden and Harris) on, and certain things we don’t see eye-to-eye on,” Wilkinson said.
Ultimately, though, her desire to vote Trump out of office was greater than any reservations she had about either Biden or Harris.
When it came to the actual voting process, only one of the five students interviewed (Sills) cast their ballot in person, while the others voted by mail.
“Honestly, I have such a busy schedule that voting by mail is really a lot more convenient for me, so I didn’t see it as a loss at all — it was more of an advantage,” Wilkinson said.
Griego was disappointed that he wasn’t able to vote in person for his first election, but understood that voting by mail was in the best interest of his and his family’s safety.
“COVID has taken a lot away — why wouldn’t it take away the joy of voting?” Griego said.
Patel utilized the Secretary of State’s voter’s guide to help ease the confusion of the legal decision-making process.
Overall, he described his voting experience as “a little bit hectic, but super exciting at the same time.”
At the time of the interview, Wilkinson had requested her absentee ballot but had yet to receive it.
“It is important to vote, and if you’re able to, I do encourage it,” Wilkinson said.
Gino Gutierrez is the managing and sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GGutierrez_48