Through the eyes of a first time voter

For many, the 2016 election will be the first they will partake in. As a first-time voter myself, I was eager to exercise this symbolic right of passage. However, my reaction for this election can be summed up in few words: disappointed and discouraged.

I approached this election wanting to make an informed decision on who I’d be voting for. I was more concerned with the quality and competency of a candidate than their party affiliation. While I tried to keep an open mind to Donald Trump’s announcement of running for president, I was shocked when he directly denounced Mexicans and more shocked by the cheers in the crowd when he did so. After that spectacle, I assumed his campaign’s fate was sealed and looked to the rest of the candidates to see who to vote for.

I mapped out the dates of each debate for both parties in order to gain a better understanding of each of the candidates and where they stood on certain issues. The first Republican debate was hard to watch, and I was cringing at the belligerent discourse that took place; many of the candidates condescended to insults and obnoxiousness. The moderators also seemed to entertain such behavior by the questions they asked and to whom they directed most of the questions.

The first Democratic debate was the opposite, in that the candidates focused on addressing the issues. In attempt to try to stir some negativity, the moderator asked candidate Sanders about candidate Clinton’s e-mails, to which he responded that he was tired of hearing about it. Despite the success of the debate in comparison to the Republican debate, I noticed there was a public preference towards two of the four democratic candidates, while the other two were set aside.

I continued to watch the debates and found potential candidates from both parties that I felt comfortable voting for. As Trump’s popularity kept growing, however, I realized that my incentive to vote began to change. I was still focused on choosing the candidate that aligned with my views, but I was also taking into consideration their probability of beating Trump.

After my favored Republican candidate dropped out, my outlook on the election completely shifted to making sure my vote counted against the future Republican nominee. My reasons for voting shifted from wanting to make an informed decision to voting out of fear of not voting. As a Hispanic woman, I could not align myself with the republican nominee. Although I am Salvadorian and his comments were specific to undocumented Mexican immigrants, the stereotype that “all Hispanics are Mexicans” causes all Hispanic people to be vulnerable to the hurtful rhetoric.

I also wasn’t completely comfortable with the choices I had with the democratic candidates, which were quickly narrowed to two choices. While I do lean left for certain issues, I felt one of the candidate’s propositions a little too far left, and I found it hard to trust the word of the other. Although I am proud to see a woman come so far in a presidential election race, I still have my reservations.

After each party’s nominees were announced, I was left choosing between a man who has problems with many groups of people and a woman whose recent official position was plagued with scandal. My vote, like the vote of many others, is no longer about the candidate I can support, but instead is simply a vote against the candidate I like the least. While the option to vote third party remains open, it is not the best move strategically. The fact that I had to describe my vote as being strategic showcases how little I care about the person I am voting for.

This election has deprived me of choosing a candidate that accurately represents my views. I am baffled at the results of this election so far and cringe at the thought of seeing the debates to come.