1st-time voters reflect on election season

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UC Berkeley students across the city poured into the polls when they opened bright and early Tuesday morning, ready to have their voices heard on the ballot — many of them for the first time.

For many voters, the excitement of their first opportunity to have their say in the general election process was overshadowed by the polarizing national conversation surrounding the two major presidential candidates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

“To be honest, I’m just going to be happy once the day is over,” said Sarah Sheets, a sophomore at the Unit 3 polling station. “This election has been a little too divisive.”

Many voters felt that the general election was a choice between the lesser of two evils, some saying that ultimately, they voted against Trump rather than for Hillary, while others opted for a third-party candidate.

“My philosophy is to reject both of them because they’re both corrupt,” said Sara Wexler, a freshman at the Unit 3 polling station. “I’m voting Green Party.”

First-time voters also felt particularly motivated by their new responsibility, noting their engagement in presidential candidate’s platforms over the past year through social media and televised debates. Many students mentioned the importance of this general election in particular in light of their own values and concerns.

“The reason I’m voting is to keep the person who’s trying to deport many of my family and friends out of office,” said Yael Murillo, a UC Berkeley junior.

Despite Berkeley’s predominantly Democratic crowd, there were a few students who decided to vote for Trump.

“(It was) a weird decision for me. I did select Trump, and obviously that won’t affect anything in California,” said freshman Simon Kuang after he voted at Unit 1.

Complicating students inaugural voting experience was a slew of city official elections, 12 local ballot measures and 17 state propositions. Several students, such as Sakshi Madan, a sophomore, said this was the first time they had really been paying attention” to election politics and set aside time to understand local ballot measures and mayoral candidates’ platforms ahead of time.

Proposition 51 which would issue billions in state bonds for education facilities left several students at the polls conflicted over whether or not the bonds would be managed effectively.

Freshman Zubin Koticha said while the measure’s opposition from from Gov. Jerry Brown and the increase in state deficit it would cause were deterring factors, he would be still be voting yes on 51 because “education spending should be a priority.”

“I’m excited to vote,” said Christian Fong, a freshman voting at Unit 3. “I think it’s something we take for granted as Americans.”

Staff writer Fionce Siow also contributed to this report. 

Contact Audrey McNamara and Ashley Wong at [email protected].