Young, first-time voters join record throngs


Nov. 5, 2020 — Voter turnout for the 2020 Presidential election has already surpassed the total voter turnout for the 2016 Presidential election. With 2020 a year that will go down in history books, many people apparently feel it’s more important now than ever to vote and elect a leader that will handle COVID-19, civil unrest, environmental issues and more issues the way they see fit.

In 2016, a total of around 138 million Americans cast their vote. By the morning of Election Day on Nov. 3, just under 100 million Americans cast their ballot for early voting compared to the 47 million Americans who voted early in 2016. Data gathered from the Secretary of State website shows that in Washington state specifically, participation by voters is going in a general upward direction. In 2016, 34.88% of the state’s population voted in the primary election and 78.76% voted in the Presidential election. In 2020, 54.44% of the state’s population voted in the primary election and votes postmarked on Nov. 3 were still arriving and being counted several days later.

Charlie Sperry, a student at Western Washington University, is of age to vote for the first time this election. She said she is much more informed and interested in the election this year because of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement, not just because she is eligible to vote.

“This year, for the first time, people are realizing that voting is advocacy and an allyship. It’s more than tax dollars and economic security. This year our vote is on behalf of the marginalized,” Sperry said. Environmental issues and human rights are important to her and something she looks for in a candidate.

Nicole Griepp, healthcare employee at Whitman College, said she didn’t vote in the Presidential election in 2016 but she did vote this year.

“I didn’t like either candidate in the last election and I still don’t this election, but I feel that more is at stake now,” Griepp said. She said the chasm between the two candidates this year is too big to ignore, so she feels she needs to actually pick a side that aligns with her values more.

American politics have become more polarized over the course of Trump’s presidency. Democrats have generally become more strongly democratic and republicans have generally become more strongly republican. The close call in election results between Biden and Trump reflect the deep division that exists in the U.S.

It seems like a lot of people feel similarly to Sperry and Griepp. Younger generations like Generation Z and millennials seem to be focused on voting to make a change for the environment and human rights issues. Both older and younger generations are especially aware of the importance of voting this election. You can’t scroll through social media like Twitter or Instagram without seeing people’s posts about the importance of voting and using your voice. Young people especially seem to feel the pressure to vote because of how many people are posting about it on social media.