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How do first-time voters feel about this year’s presidential election?


In an election cycle where the size of one candidate’s hands and the pantsuits of the other are discussed as frequently — if not more — than issues facing the country, it can be difficult for people to figure out what to prioritize when it comes to casting their vote.

And for first-time voters who aren’t yet familiar with the election process, it can become even more confusing trying to decide who deserves to be president.

Three weeks ahead of one of the most contentious and unusual elections to date, The Suffolk Times talked to young voters to gauge their thoughts on Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a joke,” Kristal Dewey, 20, said of the election. “I still have to decide who to vote for. It’s hard because they’re both foolish.”

A concept often repeated by students in professor Sean Otten’s American National Politics class at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead is the idea that this election is all about “picking the lesser of two evils.”

Students in the class, which contains 13 first-time voters, seemed dismayed by the thought of having to choose between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump. Some said they would vote for a third-party candidate instead.

“I know a lot of people say this is going to be awful and nothing will come out of it, but I really believe in the principle of voting,” Peter Pollizatto, 21, said. “So if someone complains and didn’t vote you can say, ‘Well you didn’t vote, so you didn’t really have a say in it.’ … I’m going to vote for [Libertarian] Gary Johnson so I can have a say.”

Other students, such as second-time voter John Bradley, felt that because the two candidates are so “repulsive” and there’s a “much higher risk” this year, it’s particularly important to choose between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton.

After polling the class, 17 students said they planned on voting, while five have decided against it.

According to a U.S Census Bureau study, millennials, or people aged 18-35, comprise the smallest group of voters. In 2012, just 38 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 voted. That number increased to 49.5 percent for people aged 25 to 44. Meanwhile, 64.5 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 voted, as did 69.7 percent of people 65 and older.

“This election, most of the time you think about the domestic interests and stuff — gay marriage and stuff — but I believe that this election will have major global implications and ways of which it affects the world,” said Peter Gensler, 23.

In general, the class agreed that this election’s candidates are subpar. Regardless, they still think it’s important to help play a role in choosing the country’s next leader.

“Both of the candidates aren’t impressive figures or the best candidates possible, but I think people have started to pay attention to the inner workings of the political machine in the United States and are seeing the corruption on all sides,” Kendra Worth said. “I feel like in the future maybe we’ll make some changes to the way the system operates — hopefully.”

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Photo: Professor Sean Otten teaches his American National Politics class at Suffolk County Community College about the upcoming election. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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