RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While voting in Virginia officially began about a month ago, many residents are waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots.
Some are waiting out of convenience and some are waiting to see what the candidates will do leading up to Election Day. Either way, first-time voters are a part of that conversation.
According to the Virginia Department of Elections, over 16,500 people are registered to vote in New Kent County. And among those registered to vote is first-time voter Danielle Peyton.
Peyton, 19, is in her sophomore year at Virginia Commonwealth University and she is invested in this year’s election because there are issues right now that, for her, can’t go unheard.
Peyton said one issue that she can’t get away from is the coronavirus pandemic. She said something needs to be done now.
“COVID is definitely important to me as a first-time voter because I am ready to get back to my normal lifestyle, as far as being able to go out, sitting in a real lecture class with 200 or more people, and being able to see my family whenever I want,” said Peyton.
But she said police brutality is more important to her this election.
“Police brutality is majorly important to me because a lot of Black families around America are losing their family members because cops feel that their safety is being threatened just because of the color of someone’s skin,” expressed Peyton.
Also a first-time voter, Aysia Wallace, 18, of Charles City County, just started her freshman year of college at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. She said she’s looking for candidates on the ballot in November who match her beliefs and ideals.
“COVID is very important because of my safety and the people’s safety around me,” said Wallace. “Police brutality is extremely important because it’s happening too often around us and no change is coming. We are getting beat and disrespected over small things or nothing at all and the police are not getting punished or any type of discipline.”
Wallace said she’s focusing on researching the local candidates for this year’s election. She said they are the individuals who make the laws that affect her community every day.
“Local elections are important,” said Wallace. “Different things can change in a local community but if there is no election then there is no change.”
And Peyton said the candidates running in the local elections will be the voice for the voiceless.
“Local elections are more important than national elections because the local officials are supposed to represent our community as a whole,” expressed Peyton. “The person who is chosen to represent us locally is supposed to be our voice. So if we put the wrong people in office locally then we will never see the things that we want.”
Peyton and Wallace won’t be the only first-time voters at the polls. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018 for voters between the ages of 18 and 29. This was the largest percentage point increase for any age group at that time.
Peyton said she feels the increase in younger voters is because her generation grew up with so many technological advances. She said ultimately this means her generation has more access to information and can learn more about the issues than previous generations, which results in them being involved in politics.
“I get most of my information on candidates from my parents and via social media,” said Peyton. “I think that politicians should use social media as a way to connect to the younger generations, considering in the past years they have had the lowest voter turnout.”
Wallace said social media is a staple in modern-day society. She feels it should be utilized more by politicians.
“They should use social media more. People from all over the country of all ages use social media,” said Wallace. “It’s a way of broadcasting things now.”
Both Peyton and Wallace said voting is a great way to have everyone’s voice heard, particularly if you see something you want to be changed. They emphasize that everyone should pay attention to deadline requirements and do not wait until the last minute to vote.