Exercising My Right To Vote: Gen Z Voters On What It Was Like To Vote For The First Time

"Vote with your conscience, but also vote wisely".

With a month left until the 2022 national elections, we talk to the youth who registered and voted for the first time in the 2019 midterm elections. Here, we look into how the Gen Z will approach voting come May 9.

Related: What To Expect When You Head To The Voting Booth On Election Day 2022

It is often said that voting is one of the most important civic duty that you will ever do as a citizen. The idea of participating in an election is ingrained in society as a collective act that holds great weight in the development of a democratic society. But what exactly is it like to vote in an elections? During election season, news channels are splashed with wall-to-wall coverage of everything that should inform the decision of the voter. But to actually choose from the pool of candidates and cast your ballot can be a whole other ball game.

With millions of first time registered voters set to participate in the May 2022 elections, many are coming in with fresh and often conflicted minds. This is why we reached out to the youth who registered and voted for the first time in the 2019 midterm elections, asking them about their experiences voting for the first time. Of course, compared to now, the political climate was extremely different, but what they had to say is a peek at how young voters might approach the upcoming national election.

MOTIVATED BY CANDIDATES

Vote Early Election 2020 GIF by INTO ACTION - Find & Share on GIPHY

At the time, Marco was just 19 years old and still in college. Like many, he registered simply “to exercise my right to vote.” But he added that he was also motivated because of certain candidates running, particularly with the idea of these candidates not wanting to make it to the senate. As for how he formed his senatorial slate was, “I followed the published platforms of the senatorial candidates back in 2019, some of which were compiled by other news media.”

As election day rolled around, he and his family made their way to their local voting precinct. “There were a lot of people lining up at the polls even as early as 5AM,” he shares. And since elections are held in the summer, dealing with the heat was also a concern. “Given that it was in the middle of summer, hydration and staying cool are two things to remember.” But what caught Marco’s ear the most was what the people in line were saying. “Some people in line were talking about who to vote. I found that a bit awkward given the secrecy of the ballot.”

2022 marks the first time Marco will vote in a presidential elections. But while most of the political air has been sucked up by the presidential race, Marco knows that who you vote down the ballot is also important. This is something he wants first time voters to understand. “Research your candidates and fill up the ballot. Your presidential pick only works if you pair them up with a solid legislative line-up. Don’t neglect your choices for the senate and house of representatives.”

DOING MY CIVIC DUTY

Vote by Design

Politics was always something Gabby had an interest in years before she became of age to register to vote. “I always wanted to vote even before 2016. I wanted to participate in civic duty like the adults.” So, when the time came, she immediate jumped on the opportunity. In fact, she researched her nearest registration area and went through the process by herself.

Your political stances often shape who you vote for in an election. And that was true for how Gabby approached her candidates. “I studied people’s campaigns and who they supported in national politics,” she said. She expounds on this by saying, ”Anyone supporting the opposition with a viable campaign or a neutral stance with a non-conservative stance was in my list.”

For Gabby, her experience at the voting booth for the first time went smoothly. “I went in, filled up, lined up to scan the ballot, and left in less than an hour.” Because of how attuned Gabby has become with Philippine politics, she knows that while she would like certain things to happen, she’s also open to compromise. “Vote with your conscience, but also vote wisely. Sometimes compromises have to be made in a world that is not perfect.”

FROM APATHETIC TO ENGAGED

Election GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Politics was something that Oscar rarely involved himself with. “I didn’t care a lot about what was happening on the news. I was of the mindset that if it didn’t affect me, I won’t react.” That all changed though beginning in 2016, which he calls “the year that I started to care.” As he started to pay more attention to what was happening in the country and around the world, voting became something that he wanted to get involved with. “I didn’t hesitate when I had the opportunity to register to vote.” When it came time to choose who to vote for, Oscar turned to the news, social media, and the candidates stances on the issues he cared about. “I naturally gravitated towards people I agreed with and edited my list from there.”

For the most part, Oscar’s experience at the voting precinct was fine. But what shocked him the most was how long it took. “When I was younger, I remember my parents taking like 30-40 minutes just to vote. But we took over two and a half hours from start to finish.” But regardless, Oscar left happy because he felt that his vote actually brought change to his city. “The candidate I voted for mayor won and beat an incumbent who came from an entrenched political family. It makes me feel proud knowing I help contribute to that.”

As for his advice for first time voters this 2022, he emphasizes the need to care about who to vote for on the entire ballot. “I admit that I didn’t think about my vote for partylist, so I just chose at random. Please take the time to research the entire ballot, not just President or Vice President.”

Continue Reading: More Than Just Voting: 5 Things You Can Do Before Election Day 2022