The 2020 election has already seen record-breaking numbers of early voters. The US Elections Project, a nonpartisan organization run by a professor at the University of Florida, puts the number of early votes at 97.6 million. Using the Election Project’s figures, the ballots already tallied have surpassed two-thirds of the total vote in 2016. The Texas Tribune reports that 9.7 million Texans cast ballots early, surpassing the state’s 2016 vote total. KUT Austin reports that Texas has seen its youth take charge, with over 3 million people aged 18-29 already having voted. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, I spoke with three first-time voters about what’s most important to them, and what’s driving them to the polls in 2020.
Jesse Farrar, 18
At first glance, Jesse Farrar’s eyes are full of a certain childlike joy. His mop of brown hair and giant smile are disarming, but make no mistake, Farrar has strong opinions about what he wants out of this election.
Farrar is transgender, and says that he’s driven to vote “because I’m a member of a marginalized community, and not voting when I have the ability to could be very dangerous for me.”
That fear isn’t baseless, either: in June of 2020, the administration moved forward with a rule that would write transgender people out of protections against sex discrimination in health care. Under this rule, the Kaiser Health Foundation says, a transgender man could be denied treatment of ovarian cancer, or the cost of a hysterectomy could increase if it’s related to a gender transition.
Among other issues, Farrar says he wants to see a Green New Deal emerge to combat climate change, and fundamental changes to the police system in America.
“Voting is one of the biggest steps you can take right now. Vote in conjunction with protests, petitions, and calling your senators. If you’re able to, vote.”
Anissa Mackay, 18
The pastel colors and ethereal energy of Anissa Mackay’s Instagram feed are punctuated with photos of the college student holding “I Voted” stickers. “
“As a Muslim woman, my rights to exist as an American citizen are on the line with this election. My status as an equal citizen is endangered,” she says.
During his 2016 campaign, President Trump called for “a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Early on in his term, the president attempted to follow through on this claim, and instituted a series of travel restrictions on countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria, all of which have a large population of Muslim people. Mackay called these restrictions ‘crushing.’ “To hear Trump so openly revile the religion cut deep, since I know most Americans don’t know the true version of Islam.”
Zaria Brownlee, 18
Zaria Brownlee’s shining sense of humor and quick-witted comments make her a standout in her age group. Usually, you would find Brownlee in the theatre, wielding a power tool as she builds sets for a new show.
On Tuesday, however, the Texas State University freshman will be at the polls, voting.
“I want to be the change in my age group that I want to see,” she says, “I want representatives that hold the same values I do.”
As a Black woman, Brownlee says it would be “inspiring” to see Kamala Harris elected vice president. Her strongest plea, though, is for others to go to the polls alongside her.
“Go vote. If you have the ability to vote, and you don’t, you have no room to pass judgement on political issues.”