There’s a lot at stake in the 2020 presidential election. Voters are not just electing a leader but weighing in on issues like affordable health care, climate action, LGBTQ+ rights, gun violence prevention, federal judge appointments, and so much more. Everyone has a different story about what got them to the polls, which is why Elite Daily asked first-time voters to share their stories about why voting is so important to them this year.
As Election Day approached, voter turnout skyrocketed. As of a week before Election Day, more than 60 million voters had already cast their ballots in the presidential election, per The Washington Post, and a lot of them are young. Gen Z is expected to make up about 10% of voters in this year’s election, and they’re turning out. As of Oct. 30, more than 7 million young people ages 18 to 29 had already cast their ballot by mail or in early voting, according to data from Tufts University. If this momentum continues, the 2020 presidential election could see impressively high rates of youth voter turnout. So much for the old stereotype that young people don’t care about politics.
Elite Daily spoke to 21 Gen Z first-time voters across the nation about why they’re voting in 2020, what’s at stake, and why you should care, too. Here’s what they have to say about casting their ballot at such a pivotal moment for the country.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Sojas W., 19
I’m voting because I have the privilege of still having hope in the American political system. I know many people, especially Black and Indigenous folx, have been let down far too many times by harmful judicial decisions and legislation. As a gay man of color, I worry about the future of LGBTQ+ rights, particularly with the recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. I’m casting my vote for Biden-Harris to oust a candidate I see as a fascist white supremacist from office and to save lives from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and police brutality, among other crises. I realize Biden and Harris are far from perfect — their inability to endorse the Green New Deal, commit to defunding the police, or ban fracking is discouraging — but until the two-party system is abolished, I have no other choice but to vote blue.
Ahmad I., 19
As a Palestinian-born Muslim American, my existence is a political statement. My whole life, I was told I do not belong here, yet I always questioned why the U.S. belonged in the Middle East. I believe so much pain and suffering is caused when there are few powerful people making the decisions for the people. This election has only strengthened that belief. With an administration other than Trump, positive change is possible. During the last four years, we experienced a "Muslim Ban," growing Islamophobia, and frightening acts of racism and domestic terror. This election means hope for Muslims and Arab Americans. This election means change.
Vanessa L.J., 18
Blythewood, South Carolina
For me, voting is one of the ways I can create tangible change for marginalized communities around the nation. Especially in a year where proper leadership is needed, the youth vote could be the turning point to ensure equal rights become human rights. In 2020, I started to think differently about democracy and structural change. I recognized how vital it is to use my political energy for grassroots campaigns and local organizing. This year, my mom and I are voting for the first time ever and making sure our voices are heard at the polls.
Izzy L., 18
Brooklyn, New York
On Monday, Oct. 26, I voted early and in-person (with my dad) for Joe Biden! It honestly feels surreal to be voting at all, let alone in arguably the most important election in U.S. history. At the polls, I'll be thinking of my late mom, who was a civil rights activist and former director of the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. She would be horrified at the state America is in today, but proud of me for using my voice and vote to make a change. As a first-time voter, I recognize this election is much bigger than me; it’s a stepping stone toward building a better, stronger, and more progressive America.
Joel K., 18
This election, I voted for Donald Trump. Though I’m fairly conservative, voting for Trump was by no means guaranteed — he's a pretty repulsive guy. But an election is not a referendum on character; it's about policy. These past four years, I believe the mainstream media and the cultural left have run a biased campaign against conservative values, including reports about accusations of Russian collusion and allegations of racism against Trump. It’s clear political bias and hypocrisy, which is slowly corroding American society and its core principles. The biggest issue for me, in addition to my pro-life stance, is that by voting for Joe Biden, I would validate this smear campaign and the precedent it sets.
Aditi S., 18
Union City, California
Being in California, I'm often told by people around me they don't think individual votes matter since California is reliably Democratic. However, I believe that because voting is a privilege, it's my civic duty to participate. Whether or not my vote "matters," it's about being part of the decision-making for America. I’ve heard people say they’re not voting because they think results of the election will not affect them. I think that stance is a privilege.
Since this was my first time voting, I was really excited to talk about the candidates and various propositions with my parents and 13-year-old brother to help educate them on certain topics. Since they weren’t born and raised in the United States, they have different views, and I want to help them gain a different perspective on politics and the things others go through.
I voted in-person, and every time I talk to a friend, I bring up the state of our country and ask them if they have voted. I encourage them to make voting a family activity. Our voices matter because speaking up can bring about change. Activism and involvement lead to positive outcomes, and casting your ballot is a simple first step.
Jessica R., 21
Queens, New York
I’m voting for the Democratic nominee because I believe it’s critical for us as young people, people of color, Latinos, and Americans to elect the best option. Although I may not be excited for this candidate, I'm thinking beyond the election. Actions speak louder than words, which is why I also organize to advocate for better higher education and accessible civic engagement. On Election Day, I will be voting in-person with my younger sister to show her the importance of our civic duty. Voting is a community effort and a commitment to demanding accountability from our elected leaders.
Sanskriti D., 18
Charlotte, North Carolina
To be honest, it kind of feels overwhelming to vote in this year’s election. I live in North Carolina, a swing state that seems to be very polarized and divided. I’ve been flooded with information from people on both sides who each believe they’re the good guys and those in the other party are monsters. I was kind of disappointed in this election because despite all the debate, it seems as though I don’t have a lot of options to choose from.
I voted early in-person this year because as someone who immigrated here at a young age and then became a citizen, I’ve always dreamt of going to the booth and voting. I’ve also been encouraging my friends and community members, who are mostly BIPOC, to vote by communicating important information to them via social media, offering them rides to voting booths, and explaining why it’s important to vote. As an Indian American, I know a lot of people who don’t think their voice counts because of things like the electoral college. But I believe that as people of color, it’s important for our voice to be heard as loudly as anyone else’s, if not even louder.
Charlie N., 19
College Station, Texas
I intend to vote for Donald Trump on Election Day. Although I have issues with some of his policies, I believe a second term for him will be better for all Americans than a Biden presidency would be. My primary voting issue is the question of abortion, and I believe Trump will protect unborn lives and support women who feel they have few choices when it comes to whether they can raise their child. I also think his record on helping African Americans, especially in terms of economic mobility, speaks for itself. While many Democrats tend to expect the Black vote without having worked for it, he has shown he doesn’t simply expect African Americans to vote for him, but will actually work to give them opportunities.
Hannah W., 19
Boca Raton, Florida
I know it’s easy to feel like our votes don’t count in the grand scheme of things, but here’s why I’m voting this year: Whether we’re aware of it or not, politics impacts every one of us. For some people, it impacts our right to live and love freely. It impacts the immigrant; the queer person wanting to marry the love of their life and adopt a child; the Black person trying to feel safe in a country that has made it virtually impossible to feel safe; and the Black woman whose life is at risk during childbirth. It took me two minutes to register to vote, and it took me less than an hour to cast my ballot, but it will make a difference in the long run. It’s also the first time I’m old enough to vote, so I’m encouraging those I love to do it with me! This is the most important election of our lives. It feels exciting, important, and also nerve-wracking. I’ve been trying to balance staying informed and active with practicing self-care and taking breaks when needed.
My family and I all sent in our mail-in ballots early, and I felt so emotional voting for the first time. I’m so grateful for those who fought for my right to cast my ballot.
Ritvik R., 18
I'm humbled and honored to be able to vote because not everyone residing in America is able to do the same. My parents came to the United States a few decades ago, and now my entire family are citizens. It's important to me to vote because it’s the most powerful thing an individual not in office can do to determine what’s said and done in government. Our voices have incredible meaning — the president isn’t the only one who has the power to shape our country. I constantly tell my peers to vote because many people wish they could. The eligibility to vote, in and of itself, is a blessing and privilege.
Cassie T., 18
It feels pretty empowering to have my first election be such an important one. I honestly don’t identify with either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but this year I’m voting for leaders who will make our country safe. The two-party system is tricky, but in the end I care about how this pandemic should be tackled, environmental issues, and rights of minorities. The fact that the rights of Black people, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people, as well as reproductive rights, are being discussed as if they’re political issues instead of a matter of human rights is astonishing to me. I’m a member of multiple minority groups — I’m a woman of color — so I want to make sure my rights aren't taken away.
Arjav R., 18
I've been working on political campaigns since I was 10 years old, so this process should feel familiar to me by now. And yet there's something different about this election.
I grew up in the Bay Area but moved to southeast Kansas about six months ago. I was burnt out from the toxicity of campaign culture, so I swore off getting involved in campaigning when I moved. But as time went on, the stakes got higher and higher, and eventually, I wound up as a voter mobilization fellow for the Kansas Democratic Party. I'm proud to be a part of an incredible team working to help finally push Kansas into the blue column.
I'm voting for clean air, clean water, and clean jobs. I'm voting to restore the American dream my parents found when they first came to this country over three decades ago. I'm voting to help make history as Kansas elects its first Democratic senator in almost a century. I'm voting to put an end, once and for all, to this deadly pandemic. Let's do this.
Nabila H., 18
I am a Black Muslim woman voting for the first time this presidential election, and I’m voting for Joe Biden. I voted via mail-in ballot from my college campus.
Social justice issues like police brutality and Black Lives Matter are very important to me. I helped register some of my peers, and I’ve also been using social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to raise awareness about how important this election really is for people of color. I plan to combat voter suppression by raising voter awareness and getting politicians to make mail-in voting much more accessible, especially to communities of color.
Maya S., 20
I'm so excited to be voting in my first presidential election, and have my friends to thank for researching the candidates and ballot initiatives with me. By discussing what's on the ballot with them, it made me feel more comfortable and confident that my voice will be heard.
I vote because I'm proud of my Asian-American Jewish identity, and I deserve a leader that respects and honors who I am and the traditions I value. I'm also a survivor of sexual violence, and I demand leadership that will uphold justice and always stand by survivors. Health care is an extremely important topic to me because families go broke trying to keep their loved ones alive when they should only have to focus on getting them healthy. I can relate to worrying about finances more than my health — 2020 is the first year I could afford the therapy I’ve needed for years. I want a base health care plan for all U.S. citizens, as well as the option to pay for private insurance.
It is a privilege to vote, but it's also a privilege to be in an elected position of power. We have to demand our representatives actually fight for us and represent us. And if they don’t, we should vote them out. Democracy only works if we all participate.
Anishi P., 18
I’m voting because I believe everyone who is of age should vote, regardless of whether or not an issue they’re passionate about is at stake during a given election. The biggest issue for me right now is the coronavirus pandemic — so many countries around the world are nearing normal once again, and I really believe it’s the United States’ late and lackluster response to the virus that has stopped us from doing the same. I’m confident a change in leadership in favor of someone who recognizes the virus is a legitimate threat would help us return to normal faster than pretending things are already fine.
Leah K., 18
Apex, North Carolina
Voting in my first presidential election was so exciting and nerve wracking. My biggest issue is gun violence prevention because I know way too many gun violence survivors. It's ridiculous that it's a partisan issue. Some of my other issues are climate change, women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and — of course — prioritizing the coronavirus pandemic. I voted by mail a month before early voting started because I personally don't feel safe voting in-person.
I'm spreading the word on voting and its importance. I strive to combat voter suppression by giving out the voter protection hotline number, which you can call if you have problems voting. I believe my voice matters because I can make a change speaking out and voting. I know there are elected officials who want to listen to me and hear me.
Valerie C., 20
I used to say I voted for women, for equity, and for recognition of climate change; but upon reflection, I realized the issue that matters most to me this election is diplomacy. With a controversial leader in the White House, the United States’ diplomatic ties are strained. Contentious far-right groups are also on the rise in Italy, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Brazil, which only encourages the dangerous political trends already growing. We need a leader who is strong on international diplomacy, who respects and encourages the U.S. State Department, and who has the respect of other global leaders. There are millions of valid reasons to vote, including better access to health care, pro-life stances, border security, and the economy. Others may not agree with your reason, but we should respect one another, think about the future we want, and act on it through voting.
Abby E., 21
Charleston, South Carolina
After watching half of my class vote in the 2016 election, it feels really important to participate in this monumental moment in American history. As a voter registered in South Carolina, I was really excited to vote for people to make change at all levels: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Jaime Harrison, Joe Cunningham, and lots of great voices working to make my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, a better place. In terms of the presidential election, the COVID pandemic as well as the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have highlighted the importance of comprehensive crisis response, access to good and affordable health care, and maintaining women's and LGBTQ+ rights through the upholding of Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. In the past, young people have had some of the lowest voting turnout rates, so I feel proud to have done my part and am encouraging all my friends to do the same.
Victor Y., 18
Los Angeles, California
It is an extremely exciting feeling to be a first-time voter for the 2020 election because I finally have a say in the officials we elect to office. Your vote is not just a vote for president: The president we elect will be appointing policy-making Cabinet members as well as other positions of power. I care deeply about education equity, the coronavirus crisis, environmental sustainability, and the economy. As a first-generation American, I understand the importance of representing my community. There is too much at stake, and we ought to value the impact of our vote.
Lauren H., 18
Growing up, it was difficult not to feel like my voice had been muted. I got accused of being brainwashed when sharing my opinions in the local paper or community forum. However, when I look at Sen. Kamala Harris, I see proof that a young girl can grow up to be a powerful leader who fights for her right to speak and be heard. Beyond the symbolic importance of her identity as a woman and person of color, Harris promises to work alongside Biden to uphold women’s rights, including access to a safe abortion.
Voting allows me to regain the voice I feel has been lost. Voting for candidates who promise to uphold my rights makes me feel heard and valued. That is why I, a new voter, am proud to support Biden and Harris.
Your voice matters. So does your vote. Make sure both are heard and counted in the 2020 election by registering to vote right now.
This article was originally published on