Three first-time voters debate which Presidential Candidate is best, explain the importance of youth voting in Ohio
By Abby Godard, ’13
270 electoral votes, 11 days and nine swing states are all that stand between two candidates and the Presidency for the next four years. After nearly 18 months on the campaign trail, billions of dollars spent on political advertisements, two national conventions and four debates, the fate of candidates former Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are left in the hands of America’s undecided voters. According to polling website Gallup, these are the six to eight percent of American voters that Presidential campaigns and candidates are trying to persuade.
Electoral history is the greatest determining factor of an electoral outcome, said Nate Silver, pollster for the New York Times. States that typically vote Democrat or Republican are accounted for during data polling. States that have gone both red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) are called swing states. The outcome of whether a swing state will have a majority Democratic or majority Republican voting outcome varies from year to year, and the undecided voters within these swing states hold the power and responsibility to decide which candidate would be best for President of the United States.
In order to win the presidency, a candidate must accumulate 270 electoral votes. The number of electoral votes a state has depends on the state’s population, which is reconfigured every 10 years through a national census. This year, Ohio has 18 electoral votes.
In electoral history, no Republican has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio. Columbus as people say, is the swing city of the swing state and that is why both Obama and Romney have each made nearly 20 visits to the state of Ohio to date.
Rock the Vote
For first time voters seniors Ellie Thein, Alex Ehler and Cormac Bloomfield, they believe that voting in this 2012 Presidential Election is especially important to youth voters in Ohio, because the outcome of the national election is directly related to whether or not Ohio goes red or blue.
Thein’s biggest issue concerning new voters is when people of the younger generation are uninformed about political issues and “waste” their vote by either voting strictly down party lines or not voting at all.
“Nothing frustrates me more than kids who will be 18 and are like, ‘I’m not going to vote because I don’t care.’ I mean, how can you not care?” Thein said. “It’s your one duty as an American to vote and be an informed voter. You can’t just let other people make decisions for you because if they make the wrong decision, you had the chance to stop it.”
Thein said she believes younger voters are often overlooked due to their youth, and that the younger generation needs to prove that it has as much of a say in this election as more experienced voters.
“This is my first time voting, and we need to make sure our voices are heard too,” she said. “We can’t keep letting our parent’s generation and the generations above them [make] all of the decisions. This is our future, for our America, and we should start shaping it now.”
A Jaded Electorate
In a Sept. 26 PBS NewsHour report, Judy Woodruff spoke with John Delevolpe, the Director of Polling for Harvard’s Institute of Politics, about the politically jaded and undecided youth voters in the upcoming 2012 presidential election.
“It’s almost night and day,” he said. “Whereas young people four years ago were among the most enthusiastic members of the electorate, we see major dissatisfaction with the process, with the campaign, and far less political engagement than we had seen four years before.”
In 2008, adults between the ages of 18-29 made up 18 percent of all voters, according to The New York Times. Out of these young voters, President Barack Obama won 66 percent of their ballots, while his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, won just 32 percent of the youth vote.
Delevolpe highlighted the stark contrast between youth voting today and four years ago with a relatively high percentage of young voters left still undecided with less than a month until the Nov. 6 election.
“We have seen more than 10 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds at this point in the campaign are undecided. So, that is a significant number,” Delevolpe said. “We have more Millennials today than Baby Boomers in this country. Almost one in four American citizens is a part of this younger Millennial generation.”
In an Arlingtonian survey distributed to over 200 UAHS students, three topics emerged as most important to the youth of UA, issues ranged from the economy to LGBT Equality.
When young voters Thein, Ehler and Bloomfield were asked which issues were of highest importance, their answers reflected those of the student body.
Ehler, a registered Republican, finds himself split on Romney and Obama’s stances on social policy and their visions for the economy.
“Socially, I do not think that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are the best candidates,” Ehler said. “I don’t see why two people who love each other can’t get married, regardless of their gender. That just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
“I understand that a lot of people are like that due to religious preference, but at the same time, the fact that we are $16 trillion in debt… To me, the economic issues outweigh the social issues,” Ehler continued. “I don’t think social issues are unimportant, but I think that they can wait when we are this much in debt.”
Ehler admitted that he was not supportive of the president four years ago, and while he did not expect President Obama to make America’s debt disappear, he did expect more progress than he sees today.
“I did not expect the debt to go from 16 trillion to zero,” he said. “I did not expect it to go into positives where people owed us money. But I was expecting more improvement than I’ve seen,” he continued. “I think that’s my biggest problem [with Obama], is that we haven’t gotten worse… We just haven’t gotten anything.”
Ehler’s frustration with the nation’s economic standstill is one of the determining factors that swayed him in voting for Romney over Obama.
“To a President whose slogan four years ago was change—it was improvement, it was prosperity for all Americans—when I see nothing but socialized medicine, when I see the unemployment rate where it is, and when I see the debt going up trillions of dollars more, it’s hard to look at that and say, ‘Oh, we’ve had some real productive change,’” Ehler said.
Ehler’s views on the nation’s economy are shared by the majority of American voters. According to a September Gallup poll, 72 percent of Americans listed the economy as the nation’s number one problem. As recently stated in The Economist newspaper, “Barack Obama won in 2008 largely because of the economy. He may lose this year for the same reason.”
While Ehler said President Obama has not made enough progress in turning around the economy, senior Cormac Bloomfield stands by the president’s economic decisions over the past four years and said he believes that the slow and steady recovery is all a part of making an economy built to last.
“I think that President Obama didn’t sugarcoat it from the beginning,” Bloomfield said. “He knew that it was going to be a long, hard path and he has taken us the right way. That’s why we have consistent job growth right now. That’s why the stock market has had some of the best days in recorded history since the President took office. I think this shows that President Obama has created the right economic policies for our country.”
Bloomfield credits Obama for rescuing the American auto industry with government-backed loans and government oversight of the industry’s restructuring efforts; Bloomfield views this as a defining moment for the economy and Obama’s presidency.
He contrasts Obama’s decision with an op-ed piece Romney wrote for The New York Times in 2008 titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” In the piece, Romney states, “The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs… Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check” and that a bailout would not provide incentive for reform of the company as a whole.
Although Obama and Romney did not agree on how to help the auto industry, they both agreed that General Motors, a Fortune 500 company, needed restructured to insure the company’s future health.
Today, GM has reclaimed it title as the top-selling automaker in the world, posting its largest annual profits in history in its February press release. Bloomfield believes that Obama’s rescue of the auto industry was crucial in saving not only American jobs, but jobs for over 800,000 Ohioans.
“I think it was right to save the auto industry,” Bloomfield said. “In Ohio alone, one in eight jobs are directly linked to the auto industry, and he saved those jobs. This shows that Obama cares about the average, middle-class American, and that he wants to keep their jobs, that he is creating a stronger economy. And Governor Romney would rather just have ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,’ which I don’t think is the right policy for the nation.”
Another deficit spending cut of Obama’s that Romney plans to repeal includes eliminating the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare.
While both Bloomfield and Ehler believe that health care reform in the United States is necessary, they disagree on whether it should be a government or privately run matter.
“I think what President Obama did with health care is one of the crowning achievements so far this past decade,” Bloomfield said. “I think it’s wonderful that people up to age 26 can stay on their parent’s health plan. I think it’s a serious problem that we’re one of the few western nations without universal health care. I think [Obamacare] has helped make us a better country.”
Ehler argues that ‘forcing’ citizens to purchase health care is an example of the federal government overstepping its power.
“I agree that America has been behind with government-run health care like Europe, Australia, Canada even. There should be a government-minimum health care,” Ehler said. “But to force citizens to buy it, I don’t necessarily agree with. It should be available, but it should be paid for by people who can afford it.”
This is where key differences between Democrats and Republicans opinion drastically differ when it comes to the role of government in the lives of everyday American citizens.
While Ehler says that he agrees more with the Republican platform due to the idea that he believes less government is better, Bloomfield disagrees and says that the role of the government should be to help its people.
“I like the idea of the philosophy that the government can help its people,” he said. “That the government can make a better tomorrow, that we can have a better future, that we need to make it more of a fair system, we need to help those less enfranchised—those without a voice. I think with a strong government, at the federal level, you can have more people taken care of than you can in the states and you need a strong government for a strong country.”
Bloomfield believes that ObamaCare is the key example of how government ‘cares’ about its people.
“I think Obamacare is a great name for it. I know Republicans try to use it as slander, but I think it truly says that Obama does care about our national government,” Bloomfield said. “He cares about the people because it shows that people with preexisting conditions who right now can’t get insurance and people who have insurance at absurdly high levels can now get the health care that they deserve. They can get this at their state level. He’s made it so it’s an option for everybody in this country. We have millions of uninsured people, which is far too many. With his plan, millions more people will be covered and hopefully the entire nation will soon be covered with health care.”
This government control over its people frightens Ehler and makes him question what else the government could ‘force’ on its citizens.
“The scariest thing to me about the government-run program—Obamacare, is the progression of what it could lead to.”
These differences in government ideology are examples of what Ehler and Bloomfield think is great about this country; that they are allowed to have differing opinions. However, they both agree that it has led the country to be more divided and partisan as a whole.
Bloomfield says that partisanship has dated all the way back to the nation’s birth, but believes that the line has been crossed with the United States’ so called ‘gridlock’ Congress against the President.
“I mean I think it’s natural. It’s always gone on. It’s gone on since you had Adams and Jefferson battling it out in the 18th century,” he said. “I think it has become increasingly persistent right now and I think it’s a major problem when the Republicans in the senate and the house think the number one priority is to fire the president instead of helping the American people.”
However, Ehler believes that the biggest culprit to blame for the division within the country is the media on both sides of the political spectrum.
“Okay, well the biggest problem is when we turn on the news—any station—CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, they all say, well Democrats oppose this, Republicans want to do this but Democrats don’t like it,” Ehler said. “It’s almost as if they treat it [politics] like it’s a competition. Like it’s two opposing teams.”
Ehler continued, saying that politics is turning into more of a contest rather than focusing on people’s lives.
“News stations don’t want to report news, they want to be news. Because people—the uneducated American public as bad as it sounds, wants to watch a soap opera. They want to watch drama, they want to watch a fight,” he said. “They don’t want to actually hear what’s going on. And that is just damning for any country—especially of one with as much freedom as this.”
Amidst all of the negative advertising and party bashing during campaign season, Ehler and Bloomfield believe that this constant negativity does nothing but frustrate the American people and divide the country as a whole.
Bloomfield believes that Democrats and Republicans must come together and create a more bipartisanship country for the betterment of the American people.
“I think we all need to get our priorities straight, that we are here to help the country,” Bloomfield continued. “That we need more bipartisanship. We need to unite more as a country, we can’t just continue to do this if our political parties continue to be so partisan and refuse to compromise. I think if we had more compromise and more discussion in congress, that people wouldn’t be so upset with the way government is today.”