“I didn’t think it affected me”: UWL first-time voters discuss why they are paying attention now


Photo retrieved from uwlax.edu.

Isabel Piarulli, Student Government Reporter

Midterm elections will be taking place nationwide on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and Wisconsin’s Senate and Governor races are in the spotlight. Beyond local elections and other measures on the ballots, statewide races feature the race between Tony Evers and Tim Michaels, for governor, and the U.S. Senate race between Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes.

Most recent state-level elections have been decided by the narrowest of margins, and every vote counts this November.

Voter turnout among young people has increased. The 2018 midterm election has been recognized for its high voter turnout, among the youngest voter age group, 18 to 24-year old’s, there was a 79 percent jump. Many students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have decided to continue that trend. Some have been eligible to vote in past elections, but for a lot of students, 2022 is their first year voting.

The Racquet Press asked a variety of students what it means to them to be voting for the first time, whether at a state level or overall.

Tia Zimmermann. Photo provided by Tia Zimmermann.

Tia Zimmermann, First-Time Student Voter

Tia Zimmermann of Watertown is a 19-year-old sophomore at UWL. She is majoring in elementary/middle education and is a member of two organizations on campus, Aspiring Educators and Collegiate Middle Level Association. This November she is voting absentee by mail-in ballot.

What had held you back from voting before, and why now?

I wasn’t of age for the latest midterm election, and I wasn’t aware of the latest state-level election. Along with that smaller elections sometimes feel trivial to me. In the past and even now I feel there is a negative air around election time, politicians can be manipulative and that scares me. I have decided to vote now because after taking a political science course at UWL it made me realize as a citizen it is my duty to vote.

What issues do you care most about?

As an education major, I am extremely focused on how public education is addressed in the elections. I am looking at politicians’ viewpoints that will further enhance students, classrooms, educators, and policies enacted in that field.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

It’s kind of stressful, it’s the first time that my voice will be heard, and knowing that is heavy on my shoulders. I’m an adult, and I am now researching things that have the opportunity to change the course of our country, and it is overwhelming.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

Yes, in ninth grade we were required to take a government class and pass the civics test in order to graduate. However, I don’t feel high school prepared me enough for voting.

Any advice for other first-time voters or people considering voting?

Just go out and do it, get registered. I don’t know much about politics, but quickly researching the politicians and their beliefs helped give me an idea of how voting for them may change what the state is going to look like. Just be knowledgeable of what you are putting down on paper.

Tony Campbell, First-Time State Level Voter

Tony Campbell. Photo provided by Tony Campbell.

Tony Campbell of Waukesha is a 19-year-old sophomore at UWL. He is majoring in business management with a minor in finance. In the future, he plans to run his own business in the car industry. This upcoming election, Campbell is voting absentee by mail-in ballot.

What has held you back from voting before at a state level, and why now?

I think it’s the way I grew up, I never had a political kind of family. Growing up with my grandma, I lived with her basically my whole life and I was never really introduced to the political side of things until high school. Once I moved in with my aunt and uncle, they were super religious and political and, in a way, I was forced to be the same. When I did turn 18 my uncle brought me to the polls with him and heavily influenced my views and the way I voted. I feel like this is the first time it will be my own research and my own perspective on certain issues.

What issues do you care most about?

Top of mind for me is the abortion side of things, it’s everywhere I look.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I am a little nervous, especially since it is going to be just me voting for the first time. I am a little hesitant, but at the same time confident enough to trust my own research.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

In our homeroom, we had to take the civics test, but other than that we were never really taught. Obviously, we had to take a history class, but I never took any political-specific classes.

Any advice for first-time voters?

Do your research, know exactly who the specific person is who you are voting for, what issues they are dealing with, and how they are going to deal with them, otherwise you are going in blind. That is super dangerous because obviously your view matters and having the right to vote will help in the long run.

Claire O’Dawnny, First-Time Student Voter

Claire O’Dawnny. Photo provided by Claire O’Dawnny.

Claire O’Dawnny of Sheboygan Falls is an 18-year-old freshman at UWL. She is a psychology major, still unsure of her future career plans. This election she is voting in person at the polls.

What has held you back from voting in the past and why now?

I turned 18 in January, and I lived at home with my parents, I always knew my political beliefs were different from theirs. I knew I was on the left wing but didn’t specifically know who I would vote for, it is hard finding what their actual policies are and what they actually believe in. So, I said to myself I’ll just vote in the presidential elections, but for the local ones I didn’t really know so I left it be. Now that I am 18 it is exciting that I get to vote, and I understand a lot of people don’t have that right, so I think it’s good to practice it.

What issues do you care most about?

Abortion is a big one for me, I am on the Pro-Choice side and the whole thing scares me a lot. I am worried about it getting to the point where we have a Pro-Life America and it’s illegal in the majority of states.

Gun control is another big one, there is so much violence with so many school shootings going on and I think it’s better to stop it there. Lastly, the incarceration system. I would like to see people out of that system who are there for less extreme crimes, like marijuana possession. I think that whole system is messed up.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

The mandatory class was government in politics, I think it helped but I don’t think it prepared you for voting. It taught the very basics so that we weren’t swayed in anyway.

Any advice for first-time voters?

I would say get registered, it is super easy, and it’s online, it takes 5 minutes. Also, just being OK with your decision, and even if it’s not the majority opinion of where you live or of your family, or if it’s different than the people around you, it is still completely valid. You have the right to vote for who you want and should practice it if you can.

Ethen Schock, First-Time Student Voter 

Ethen Schock of The Lake in The Hills, Illinois is a 19-year-old freshman at UWL. He is a biology major with a concentration in environmental science. This election he plans to vote in person at the polls.

What has held you back from voting in the past, and why now?

I have wanted to in the past and had enough education where I would have felt able to, but there is an age restriction, so I haven’t been able to.

What issues do you care most about?

Just recently coming in with this presidential election and everything that is going on right now, the issue of women’s rights and not being able to have an abortion in the state of Wisconsin. I am from Illinois so luckily in my state it is legal, but I feel like it should be legal everywhere. I will be voting for someone who supports equality in the same way I do, in terms of same-sex marriage and racial issues with minority groups.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I am not nervous at all, I feel it’s something I should be doing as a citizen, voting is my word and my say and I am finally old enough where I can do that. I am excited to vote honestly.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

I feel like high school did not prepare me for voting and I was not required to take a civics class. I had my own sense of understanding of what it is because I don’t like to form opinions based on other people, so I taught myself.

Any advice for first-time voters?

Do your research and don’t go off what your friends say. Just because your friends are doing it doesn’t mean it’s always right, make sure you know who you are voting for.

Easton Moberg, First-time state-level voter

Easton Moberg. Photo provided by Easton Moberg.

Easton Moberg of Sheboygan Falls is a 20-year-old sophomore at UWL. He is an Eagle Guide on campus, majoring in political science and minoring in communications. This election he is voting absentee by mail-in ballot.

What has held you back from voting before at the state level, and why now?

I just didn’t think it affected me as much as it would on a federal level. I didn’t know what each position’s role was, such as the governor, and how they really affected my daily life.

After Dobbs was released and abortion was sent back down to the state level, we now really have the option to make a very significant change in the legislation in Wisconsin. So I think that voting right now is very important.

What issues are top of mind for you when you vote this November?

As I said before Dobbs and abortion are definitely the biggest ones. When it comes to other things inflation is getting higher and unions are important to me.

When the senators we have currently in the race have threatened the security and the ideas that our country was founded on, such as peaceful turnover of power, they shouldn’t be in office anymore. I think there needs to be some change in Wisconsin.

How do you feel about voting for the first time on a state level?

I feel really optimistic about it, I feel I am doing my part. Now that I am voting in all of the elections that I can, I am in a sense fulfilling my civic duty.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

I did, it was required of us to take a government in politics class, and then in another class, we had to take the civics exam. I couldn’t tell you what was on the exam, but I know I got a 100.

Any advice for first-time voters?

Just be honest, it’s your opinion and you don’t have to tell anyone else. Don’t feel peer pressured to vote for someone because your parents are, or your friends are, just go and vote. There is no need to share it with anyone, that’s why you write it down on paper in a little cubby.

Lexie Durkee, First-Time Student Voter

Lexie Durkee. Photo provided by Lexie Durkee.

Lexie Durkee of Stevens Point is a 19-year-old sophomore at UWL. She is employed at the Recreational Eagle Center (REC) on campus, double majoring in psychology and exercise sports science with a minor in Spanish with plans to become a sports psychologist. This election she is voting in person.

What has held you back from voting before, and why now?

In the past, I felt I was not educated enough on the candidates, and I didn’t have enough knowledge for it so it wasn’t something I went out of my way to do. I am deciding to vote in this election because the future presidential election is important to me. The senator race affects those elections so I would like to start playing my role as a voter at a state level before I do it nationally.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I am going in-person to the polls so I’m a little nervous because I have never done it before, I have never been in an environment like that. I know I need to do some further research on the candidates before I go, feeling more prepared will lessen my nerves.

Did you receive any civics education in high school?

Yes, I took a civics course during my freshman year of high school. I felt the course was very beneficial for the real world, but I don’t feel like it prepared me for voting. By the time I had turned 18, I couldn’t recall a majority of that information.

What issues are top of mind for you?

Recently some basic human rights are being stripped away. I will be thinking and looking at candidates who are advocating for women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

Any advice for first-time voters?

Go out of your comfort zone and try something new. We are adults who are affected by the outcomes of elections so educate yourself because your vote does make an impact. Also make sure to remember that there is no right or wrong answer, the purpose of voting is to voice your own opinion.

The 2022 midterm elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8. This election includes all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be elected, and gubernatorial elections will be held in 36 states. For more information on the contents of your ballot, how to vote, and more visit here.