Young Roanoke Valley Voters Express Desire for More Options in Presidential Race

Following the primary elections of Tuesday, March 5, students in their senior year of high school at Hidden Valley shared their thoughts and opinions on this year’s presidential election and some of the trends they have seen in recent elections.

One student mentioned that we are heading into an election which “nobody wanted,” referring to the probable rematch between incumbent Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump. Most people don’t seem to be excited about either president, causing the student to note that voter turnout may be lower than previous years.

Another student mentioned that she feels that she does not align with any of the political parties and that many other people, especially teens, share that feeling. The student mentioned that she agrees with certain ideals and policies from each party, putting her in the middle of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, our political system seems to be built for voters to align with either the Democrat or Republican Parties, making it difficult to decide how to vote in primary elections, to run for office and get publicity and to find viable candidates to support.

Each of the students interviewed mentioned a desire for more candidates in the primary elections. Many reasoned that the nominees were decided before the elections even began or after the Iowa caucus.

While it is unlikely that the incumbent’s party would nominate another party member, usually the primary elections of the other party yield a bit of competition. However, this time, it felt obvious that Donald Trump would be the republican nominee. “It’s still March and there’s still a long time to November—nine months—and we know our candidates because we’ve been in this situation before, but I feel that in previous we have learned that there is a lot that can happen in nine months,” one student noted.

Another student mentioned that this decision could be unwise in the November election. Because Donald Trump is so polarizing, it is unlikely that Democrats who aren’t fond of Biden will readily switch and vote Republican. “I think that Trump has won over the Republican base, and now it’s just if he can win over independents with the issues, because his personality is definitely something that has turned off a lot of people,” the student remarked.

The students interviewed also agreed that the age of our candidates is a problem. One worries that because both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are near 80 years old, they don’t share the same concerns as younger voters about the future.  While they may or may not not live to see the long-term impact their presidency has, younger voters will be living with the consequences of the president’s decisions, good or bad.

This student mentioned that a younger president may be more likely to listen to younger people, because they will get to see the effects of their leadership. A different student said, “Part of me is like ‘I don’t care how old they are as long as they’re an effective president,’ but then I look up there and see Biden struggling and Trump is getting up there too.”

Most of the students interviewed also brought up the competency of the presidential candidates and wondered if there ability to function as President could be affected by their ages. While Biden’s mental capacity in particular has been called into question, like voters of any age we want candidates who are articulate and confident when presenting themselves to the world. Unfortunately, one or even both of the existing candidates may continue to struggle as their ages increase.

Lastly, the students feel that they haven’t been fully represented by any of the candidates. Many cite that they don’t have many new ideas, and are prone to letting many past policy trends continue under their leadership, such as social security.

However, one student brought up a unique point. Jokingly, he stated, “I feel like we are underrepresented. We had a black president—where’s the Asian president?” Yet this is a serious concern that teens do bring up, predominantly teens who are people of color. Some people feel that choosing a representative based on race is not a good idea, but what they don’t understand is that for most people, this decision goes deeper than a shared skin tone. When someone shares similar experiences with you, they are more likely to understand your plights and represent your interests.

While race isn’t necessarily a determinant of culture, it is generally more likely that people who share an ethnicity will share similar upbringings, participate in similar traditions, and have similar ideals because of their heritage. Everyone wishes to see more politicians who share their interests.

It is clear that many young voters hope that future elections will offer more candidates with varying perspectives. We want to see candidates who are younger and have a variety of experiences to shape their policies, allowing voters to decide who they want as their representative.

– Sophia Stringer

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