Why are people voting for the 1st-time? What’s driving their decision?
Is Trump really that bad? Why are many people voting for the first time during the 2020 election? From Shaq to Gen Z to new citizens to Snoop Dogg and more.
While first-time voters are often considered young, there are many elements — from citizenship to a new engagement with politics — spurring Black voters to the polls for the first time this year.
James Odametey is both nervous and excited about voting in his first election, but he is concerned. Odametey, a University of North Carolina student who plans to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is nervous about potentially encountering long wait times, understaffed polling places and white supremacists, but he said he plans to show up Nov. 3 to vote in person for his first presidential election.
According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 10 eligible voters in the coming election, or about 24 million citizens, belong to Generation Z, the oldest of whom turn 23 this year. A recent survey by the organization found that the age group is more likely than any other generation to want an activist government. But while many Gen Z voters, like Odametey, plan to cast their first presidential ballots for Biden, “youth activists and organizers are not yet sold on a party many feel does not listen to them and is unsure of how to communicate with them,” The Hill reported.
It may be common to think of first-time voters as young, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Aside from Gen Z, a number of older Black voters plan to head to the polls for the first time this year. The reasons are wide-ranging, held by people who haven’t felt that the political system has been accessible to them.
In general, it often takes a while for eligible voters to become engaged in the political process, said Jan Leighley, a government professor at American University who has studied voter turnout. Leighley said young people tend to become more engaged in the political process in their late 20s or their early 30s.
This year, rapper Snoop Dogg revealed that he planned to vote in his first election. “I ain’t never voted a day in my life, but this year I think I’m going to get out and vote because I can’t stand to see this punk in office one more year,” he said recently, referring to President Donald Trump.
Snoop Dogg, 49, who has regularly publicly criticized Trump, told Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy that he previously believed he couldn’t vote because of his criminal record. “For many years, they had me brainwashed thinking that you couldn’t vote because you had a criminal record,” he said. “I didn’t know that. My record’s been expunged, so now I can vote.”
Octavia Goredema, 41, is voting for the first time this year, too, but for a much different reason. She has always been politically active, but she didn’t become a U.S. citizen until last year. Goredema, who was born in Nottingham and raised in the Midlands of England, moved to Los Angeles from London for work in 2005.
Nia Moore is heavily involved in politics, like Goredema, albeit for the opposing party. Moore, 20, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, didn’t grow up in a house that supported the Republican Party, but she said she has always had conservative views. “Even though my views for the most part do align with the Republican Party’s platform, I would say I wasn’t entirely comfortable calling myself a Republican until after I attended my last Turning Point event, the Black Leadership Summit,” Moore said, referring to the conservative nonprofit. “After that, I kind of just sought out friends that shared my political affiliations and leanings.”
Mail in your ballot or head to the polls. It is your right! Vote 2020!