Some of Ashley County’s first-time voters say they’re engaged with the upcoming Presidential election, sometimes to the point that it’s giving them anxiety.
And they’re not fans of the electoral hand they’ve been dealt.
These are voters who were born in 1998, but have no memory of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as First Lady, and whose introduction to billionaire businessman Donald Trump — who has lived in the public sphere for years — likely came at the age of six when he launched “The Apprentice” with the catchphrase, “You’re fired.”
More than 80 percent of their lives have been lived under some phase of the War on Terror. In the last year they’ve seen discussions of race grow more heated than they’ve been in two decades, and the road for higher education has gotten increasingly steeper as the cost of college tuition grows at a rate 6 percent higher than inflation.
Polls say their age demographic is concerned with social issues, wage gaps, discussion of guns and energy policy, but the first election in which they can participate has been called the most contentious in living memory, and its potential outcomes have often — rightly or wrongly — been cast in apocalyptic terms while the issues they care about have been little discussed.
But they’re planning to vote anyway, even as the two major party campaigns have focused largely on personality and undermining the perceived truthfulness or temperament of the other candidate.
“Voting is our civic duty, and it is the one thing we can control,” said Clayton Watkins, 18, who registered to vote at school when he was still 17 because he would be old enough by the time the Nov. 8 election rolled around. “But the more I watch the debates, then more I want to vote third party.”
The discussions of truthfulness and temperament are something first-time voter Joshua Jones said he has also had to wrestle with as he works his way to a decision.
“With Trump, he tells you what he is going to do, so you can already see the problem before it happens, but with Hillary, you don’t know how it will hurt,” he said, noting that he also thinks a third party candidate sounds good at this point in the election.