First vote of many sets the tone for future

McKenzie Jean-Philippe

Today seems like a normal day. Students are going to their classes, people are going to work and Starbucks still has those delicious seasonal lattes. However — besides the fact that it’s unseasonably warm for November — one thing is different about this Tuesday: it’s Election Day.

With Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as the top two candidates on the ballot, the stakes are high for this year’s voters.

“My first election that I ever voted in would have been … Lyndon Johnson,” said Sandy Halem, a 72-year-old Kent resident and retiree. “The war in Vietnam was very important (during that) election. But this, to me, is the most important election I’ve ever scene in my lifetime.”

Halem is a volunteer with the League of Women Voters, a national organization that educates, assists and protects the public when it comes to voting rights. Halem was at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center all morning, one of the three polling locations for Kent State students.

She said that throughout the morning, she had the chance to assist various student voters.

“We want it to be an easy experience and for them to understand that this is something to feel good about. So many of these kids are voting for the first time,” Halem said. “We want it to be something they do the second time.”

The millennial generation—aged 18 to 25—takes up nearly 31 percent of the population that is eligible to vote; that number is only matched by the baby boomers. The majority often has the power to sway the election, and with many first-time voters falling in the millennial category, filling out that first ballot makes all the difference.

Anjanae Billingsley, a junior teaching English as a second language major, spoke on the uncertainty that set in when she cast her vote.

“I was really nervous going, but it was a really easy process,” she said. “I was like, ‘Man, what if I mess up?’ You know how you get a test and study for it and you’re like, ‘I can’t possibly mess up?’ And this is America in my hands.”    

Ally Vargo, a freshman hospitality management major, expressed her excitement over voting for the first time.

“I voted because I wanted to feel like I exercised my right to vote and I’ve waited 18 years,” Vargo said. “The election is tight, and I feel like my vote matters.”

Vargo voted for Clinton, a decision she felt would benefit young voters.

“I feel like a lot of the issues have to deal with the millennials in some way, so I feel like us as a whole could really make a difference and come together and put our votes out there,” Vargo said.

Paul Flowers, a sophomore economics major, is planning on casting his first general election vote for Trump. Flowers cites the Republican candidate’s leadership skills and economic policies as reasons for supporting the New York businessman.

While Flowers is on the opposite side of the ballot from Vargo, he still places the same value on the right to vote.

“I’m voting because I love my country, and I think everybody should go vote because everybody has their own say,” he said. “There’s a big portion of the population that has a say, but doesn’t even get their word in. If you’re going to vote in any election, this would be the one to vote in.”

Ultimately, the first vote of many sets the tone for the future of America, a fact that isn’t taken lightly by those who choose to exercise their constitutional right on Election Day.

“This is gonna be our world,” Billingsley said. “We’re the future generation. We’re millennials, but we’re gonna be those old people later. It’s our future, so we have to take a part in it.”

McKenzie Jean-Philippe is an assigning editor. Contact her at [email protected]