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Members Of Idaho's Gen Z Share Why They Are Voting In Their First Presidential Election

Sofi Serio

Historically, young adults have had low voter turnout compared with other demographic groups. But could 2020 be different? 

According to NPR, early voting numbers this election have far outpaced numbers from 2016. Young adults between the ages of 18-29 in Texas, Minnesota, Virginia and several more states are all reporting early voter turnout that dwarfs the same metric last general election. 

Do you have a first time voter story this election, or know someone who does? We’re looking for stories featuring new Americans and people who have been eligible to vote previously but haven’t felt engaged before this year. Click here for more information, or send an email to idahomatters@boisestate.edu.
We’ll have to wait until after election day to learn how Idaho’s young adult vote compares, but we are hearing from young people across the state who are making voting a priority this year.
In such a tumultuous and dark year where our democracy can sometimes feel fragile, it’s encouraging to hear the voices of these young people who are stepping into their role as citizens and voters. 
HAILEY GRENDA: Hi, my name is Hailey Grenda, and I'm 18-years-old, and I'm from McCall, Idaho.

TYLER MCMILLAN: My name is Tyler McMillan. I just turned 18-years-old and I live in Boise, Idaho.


SOFI SERIO: My name is Sofi Serio. I am 19-years-old and I live in Boise, Idaho.


CAMERON PRESTON: Howdy, my name is Cameron Preston and I live in Lewiston, Idaho, and I'm 20-years-old.


MCMILLAN: I decided to vote in this election due to the fact that not only do I think that is a civic responsibility but is a mechanism to sustain democracy.

SERIO: I decided to vote in this election because the stakes are too high not to.

PRESTON: This is my first time voting. I haven't participated in any of the local voting because I have been out of college, so I'm not too in tune with the voting going on here where I live in Lewiston or back home back in Caldwell. But this is my first time voting because it's the big election cycle and it really matters. 

GRENDA: Growing up in a small town, I was fortunate enough to have access to recreation in nature right in my own backyard.

PRESTON: My inspiration to participate this round really comes from the fact that we need more people to vote regardless of who they're voting for.

GRENDA: When I first started learning about anthropogenic climate change, I knew I had to stand up for places not only like my community, which thrives off of outdoor recreation, but also areas where climate change would cause displacement of the people living there.

McMILLAN:I would say truthfully that I have mixed feelings about this election. I feel that in general, the rhetoric of the candidates has simply promoted polarization.

SERIO: I am not particularly super inspired or excited by national politics. I think that neither candidate really represents the future of America, and I really think it's time for someone young and dynamic to be elected. But I'll take what I can get this time.

PRESTON: There's been no debates where libertarian candidates were welcomed. I think that the second that we have that we can have a big turn in our society politically because it will give us more than just two choices.

GRENDA: My mom is an immigrant and refugee who was able to get her citizenship here as a teenager.

SERIO: I mean, this country was founded on very racist ideology, but we can't survive going forward on that racist ideology. And we need some serious police reform and prison reform.

McMILLAN: We as a nation need immediate action to promote the economy, the climate, democracy and unity. I think it's important to look past personality and look at policy that addresses these issues.

GRENDA: I often think about the refugees who will need protections fleeing from their homes that will be devastated by human-induced climate change in the future.

McMILLAN: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is marked as one of the most empathetic, trustworthy and sensible presidents who guided the nation with honor through the Great Depression and the start of World War Two. These are the characteristics I'm searching for in our leaders. Whether this be the presidential election or the race for the House and Senate. 

PRESTON: I couldn't see myself voting any other way. It was the only ethical vote that I saw on my ballot.

GRENDA: That's what has made me vote this year, the fight for social and environmental justice.

McMILLAN: On that note, I have not voted yet. I plan on voting in person for a variety of reasons. The first is that the mobilization of a mainstream absentee ballot in the face of the pandemic means that there's a lot of uncertainty in the media, as to its effectiveness. I also want my first voting experience to be traditional and that I can walk to my news voting center, get into the culture of Election Day and cast my vote in a tangible location.

SERIO: I voted by mail this year. I did not prefer to vote by mail, but I did because I knew that it was the safest way to vote and I wanted to make sure that I could protect my vote.

McMILLAN: I hope my vote serves to elect candidates to uphold the ideals that I mentioned from a younger perspective.

SERIO: They know the stakes are high nationally, but they don't know how things stand locally and how if things fail at the top nationally, it is the local politics that will ultimately have the most impact.

PRESTON: But I definitely say that I'm excited to see people being more open to third parties. Now that we're showing how dissatisfied we are with the Republican and Democrat Party, more eyes and the public are turning towards third parties like the Green Party and more specifically, the Libertarian Party.

McMILLAN: Regardless, I would say I'm very excited because I have the opportunity to affect the administration that'll be in place during mine and my peers' first years of adulthood and recovery. And I think there's an opportunity that can't be passed up.

GRENDA: Our voices matter and our votes matter. And being able to define yourself by what you love and believe in is so incredibly important, considering the amount of injustice that is happening not only on a national level but globally as well.

SERIO: I'm excited because I think that my voting-aged peers and those behind and directly before me in age, this is the generation that's really going to shake things up for good. I think that we're really tired of the way things are going.

GRENDA: Be the voice for others who can't speak up.

Thanks to Blue Note Sessions for providing the music in this piece. 

Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters




Frankie Barnhill is the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast. She's always interested in hearing surprising and enlightening stories about life in the West. Have an idea for Idaho Matters? Drop her a line!