What Voting For The First Time Looks Like In 2018
Voting is the simplest and most fundamental way to participate in our democracy. But it’s so much more than just casting a ballot—symbolically, it represents having a say, affecting change, and being a part of something greater than yourself.
Inevitably, voting means different things for different people. Our individual experiences help shape our worldview, and our nostalgia for rights earned (the Voting Rights Act and Women’s Suffrage, for example) puts our privilege in perspective. With the significance of these moments (and others) in mind, we sat down with 10 first-time voters from the Milk community to get their take—what issues are the most important to you? What does voting mean in your life? And if you declined to vote prior to this election, what changed your mind? Happy election day, fam. It’s time to Go Fucking Vote.
Thomas Chou, 20 years old, voting in Massachusetts
Voting is one of the purest ways to express how you feel. It means being able to express my beliefs and voice my opinion, without hurting or attacking anyone in the process.
It feels like a civic duty that I ought to perform. My generation is bringing forth a lot of new and innovative ideas and that that should be expressed in the polls.
Meg Venkatesh, 20 years old, voting in North Carolina
I had the chance to vote in the Trump-Clinton election and I purposefully did not, because at the time I didn’t really have a formal political opinion — I just kept saying that I hated the government, and that I didn’t want to participate because it was just so ludicrous to me. But now, I want to vote because in that year of sitting out I’ve learned so much about my impact and realizing as an individual citizen. It’s a right, and there are places in the world where I wouldn’t even be able to have a say in what I want in the government. Seeing it as a privilege rather than just a thing I have to get done. It does count, and it does matter.
My political opinion now is as simple as just equality—I want to see equality in all forms.
Your choice to say ‘No’ to voting all together is still a choice to accept whatever it is is going on around you.
Indifference is the root of the problem.
Steve Jeremiah Jean, 20 years old, voting in New York
We’re all a community, regardless of age. We all live in the same world, the same space, so we should all have a say. At 18 we’re stepping into the world, it’s like swimming or riding a bike for the first time. We gotta get in there. We gotta fall and get back up. It’s great to know that our voices matter.
Voting means that everybody has a say. No one can say to me, “You can’t do this or that”—I have the right to say whether or not I’m able.
Zoë Kidwell, 20 years old, voting in Indiana
I believe voting is important and that it is our duty. It is one of the only things we can do to have a say in the direction our country is going.
I would prefer to have my own opinion and choose for myself rather than letting someone making decision for me.
Delilah Rixner, 19 years old, voting in Indiana
I think that climate change is really important. More recently I care about the #metoo movement and working towards a better voice for women in America.
It’s important to research what candidates stand for instead of going off of what they say.
Pedro Damasceno, 18 years old, voting in Florida
I’ve been going through a lot of changes in who I am and what I believe. The last few months in college here have made me see things that I never saw before so I am very excited to actually vote for the first time.
When I was younger and politically active I tried my best to lay out the facts for people and show them what happening, but I never had a chance to say, “This is what I believe is right.” So now I feel liberated in that I can vote freely.
To me, voting means having a voice and knowing that your voice has an impact and pushing the scale in the way you believe.
If we don’t speak up for what we care about, there is never going to be a change.
Ethan Halpern, 18 years old, voting in New York
Obviously I can’t go to the Supreme Court and give them my opinion, but taking 10 minutes out of my day to check off who I want to represent me is the least I can do.
Billy Eichner tweeted that if you have time to put on a Halloween costume, you have time to vote. It’s the truth.
Maria Gutierrez, 20 years old, voting in Florida
Finally I’m able to represent my people, especially when it comes to immigration, a lot of people don’t have a voice, and now I get to be able to express those needs.
Indifference is the root of the problem. You can’t think that it’s not going to make a change. You don’t know that. So many of us get pressured into that mentality and say, “Whatever, I’ll give up,” but we shouldn’t do that. We are the majority. Especially now, we can’t be discouraged.
Shana Kurzela, 21 years old, voting in Connecticut
If we don’t speak up for what we care about, there is never going to be a change. The more input you have, the better.
Lauren Moghavem, 21 years old, voting in California
The Kavanaugh hearing really opened my eyes to how women are viewed and how important it is to actually be able to trust what we’re voting for. To not only believe in what people say but also their actions. Seeking out the ethical stance of who we’re voting for versus just listening to what they say.
It’s not just about the act of voting—it’s about learning for yourself and taking action based on what you personally believe in. It’s a community and it will only build if you contribute.
Stay tuned to Milk for more from Gen Z.