2020 has been a year filled with chaos, uncertainty, and tragedy. The pandemic seems to have no end in sight. People are unemployed, lonely, and losing loved ones. Police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests have broken out across the country, some ending peacefully, others ending in riots. To add to all of that, 2020 is an election year that many people have deemed “the most important election of our lives.” So, how do the young, first time voters feel about kicking off their participation with an election this heavy?
“Now, more than ever, I have realized and learned the importance of voting and how it impacts the outcome of our country in the future,” said Lily Grey, 20, of Grand Rapids. “More specifically, it’s important to vote because the rights and livelihoods of others are on the line in this election.”
Grey continued by expressing how she is feeling as the election comes to a close.
“I am especially worried about the marginalized populations and communities,” said Grey. “I feel extremely worried for the rights of black people, the LGBTQ+ community, and women’s reproductive rights.”
Grey also mentioned that while she knows participating in the election isn’t going to immediately fix everything, it can push us forward rather than back and help to keep vulnerable populations safe.
Lucy Harris, 20, of Lansing, also stressed the importance of voting.
“There is a lot on the line for every election, but especially this one,” said Harris. “I feel that letting our voices be heard is crucial, no matter the outcome of the election.”
Harris also mentioned that participating in this election has been hard because she feels that neither of the candidates are good options.
“We need someone that will bring this country together and neither candidate will be able to do that since there is such a divide in the nation. It makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed,” said Harris.
Jared Holter, 21, of Muskegon says that he loves that his first election is one that carries a lot of weight.
“Knowing my first vote in a presidential election is this important is awesome to me,” said Holter. “I know that my one vote has so much power and potential. Although, I want to keep this same energy through every election. Our votes should feel this powerful and important no matter what the election is.”
Holter also explained that he is exercising his right to vote for the people whose rights are at risk.
“Knowing that the rights of so many groups of people are on the line–it makes me scared. I am not one that necessarily has to be worried because I am a white male, but that cannot be my attitude going into this election. My vote is for the rights of every single person that do not have the same privilege that I do.”
Mariyah Wilcox, 21, of Muskegon, says she’s ready to carry out her civic duty.
“I am beyond ready to exercise my right to vote,” said Wilcox. “We all have the right and we should all want to.”
Wilcox then explained how she feels about the election.
“I am in between anxious and hopeful,” she said. “I am hopeful because I got the chance to vote and I got my opinion out to my peers, so I believe I did my part. I am anxious because this election is huge for us and the outcome could be scary.”
Erica Pallas, 21, of Norton Shores shared some of her thoughts as well.
“There is a feeling of pressure attached to voting for the first time in an election like this,” said Pallas. “We’re fighting for basic human rights. If things do not change, America will continue to go backward. We need a leader who is going to continue to push this country forward and accept all.”
When asked how he was feeling with the election coming to a close, Tyson Passenier, 19, of Ravenna said he is in “almost complete despair.”
“I have very little hope for the direction this country is headed,” said Passenier.
He continued by saying that no matter which way the election goes, his simple hope is that the rights of women and minorities won’t be affected.
While there seems to be a promising amount of young voters beginning to exercise their right to vote, there are some who have chosen not to, as that is also their right. Passenier shared a message for those young people.
“If you don’t vote, you are a part of the problem.” He then quoted Elie Wiesel, a writer, political activist and Holocaust survivor by saying “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Hannah Smock, 20, of Grayling also spoke about young voters who have chosen not to vote in this election.
“I was in your shoes. I didn’t register to vote until this year,” said Smock. “I get when you’re young you’re focused on other things, but, I promise, voting is important. The outcome of this election can either make or break some people’s basic rights.”
Smock also added that she is excited for change and hopes that whoever is in office will start resolving the pressing matters of our country.
This year and this election is weighing heavily on many people. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or upset by the process and/or the outcome of the election, reach out to the campus counseling center for help. Call (616) 234-4130 to make an appointment or visit GRCC’s Get Help website to find resources.
Editors Note: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. to include addition comments by Jared Holter and Tyson Passenier