Feels like the first time: Voting

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I am a new voter. In fact, I’m a pre-new voter, as I won’t be 18 until September. I will not be able to vote in the California June primaries, and part of me is thankful for that.

The first election I really followed was the 2016 presidential election, which, I believe, ended in chaos. I couldn’t register what had happened or how it could have happened. I would consider myself an independent or a moderate: not overly polarized and not crazy over one particular candidate from one particular party, just like countless individuals across the United States who did not feel the pressing urge to vote. But I, like many regardless of political affiliation, vowed to not let the low voter turnout that marked 2016 (and 2010) repeat itself.

It’s easy to get caught up in the not-so-glamorous world of voting. Having a part in the process that nudges the political compass that ultimately affects your life is a heavy weight to bear. I was and still am a strong proponent of lowering the voting age to 16, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to see critics’ reservations more clearly.

Voting can take an emotional toll on you.

I am one to overthink and become stressed over seemingly small decisions. I’m just not good at it. I choose one option but immediately doubt myself. This is a symptom of new voters, but for me, it marks my whole life. Of course, as I begin to vote more and more, it’ll get easier. I hope. It hasn’t for other aspects of my life.

Should I trust my gut feeling? Is this candidate hiding something? What if I’m making a bad decision? Should I just vote for whomever everyone else is voting for and be done with it? It can’t affect me that much either way, can it?

From the perspective of someone who hasn’t voted before, voting can be quite intimidating. It’s a touchy-feely subject that many shy away from, with respect to both registering and going to the polls. I know I’m guilty of doing so, and so are millions of people across the United States. The only reason I registered to vote is because I was pressured to do so at school, not because I was being bombarded by troubling political news and the importance of civic duty. Maybe it’s just because I’m lazy. But then again, that’s one of the No. 1 excuses people have given for not voting in the past.

For the primaries, some positions on the ballot have up to 32 candidates in the running. There are also five statewide propositions.

As a first-time voter, I personally would feel obligated to look into a majority of the candidates and all of the propositions. Most others would likely look at a few of the top contenders for each position or vote for who seems to be the most popular candidate for their particular political affiliation.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to comb through each and every candidate, unearth all their ideals, flaws, scandals and miracles, and see the candidate you truly think is the best for who they really are. I, for one, am terrified of vying so hard for a candidate I think is fit, only to be severely disappointed in light of them not living up to their platform and having everyone I expressed my passion to telling me I was wrong despite all the work I put into choosing them. I could just be bad at making decisions.

Many new voters are 18-year-olds. Our generation feels responsibility to be educated in their decisions and not make the same mistakes as those before us (e.g., voting with a discriminatory mindset, buying into empty politician promises or being swayed by the masses — or the traditional worldview of parents, in some cases). We are more wary of the media nowadays than ever. It’s Fox News versus the Washington Post versus heavily right-wing or left-wing smaller media sources. I often find my views on a candidate swinging the more I see in the media and the more I hear from one-sided supporters and opposers.

Living in the primarily liberal atmosphere of Berkeley, new voters may be swayed by the left-wing firestorm that rages through the city. It seems like half of young voters are becoming increasingly apathetic, and the other half are becoming hyperaware and hyperpolarized, regardless of what political climate they’re surrounded with. They express their ideas whenever they possibly can but don’t always act on them in the form of voting. They were taught the importance of voting, but they see it as a right, not a privilege.

As stressful as voting can seem, it is still absolutely essential to put in the time and effort to do. I, for one, will be voting in the November election.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].