First-time voters in the Cincinnati region weigh-in on presidential election

By Sophie Austin

Each election season, many young adults take a monumental step by voting for the first time. This year, first-time voters are casting their ballots when polarization, racial tensions and a global pandemic are at the forefront of political discourse.

Some first-time U.S. voters, however, were eligible to cast their ballot decades ago, but decided not to participate in a system they believe is structurally flawed. David Harris, 46, opposes the electoral college and wants elections to be publicly funded, but he said during an interview Friday that he was 97% sure he would vote this year.

“It would be a worse evil to not vote in this election than in other elections,” Harris said. 

He said he planned to vote early at the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Harris, who considers himself to be liberal but not a Democrat, said Trump has done lasting damage to the country.

“I think it’s unthinkable to think that our country and our political system could have deteriorated to the level that it has in four years,” Harris said. “It was unimaginable.”

Harris said he moved to Cincinnati about eight years ago, and is originally from Wichita, Kansas.

Harris, executive director of the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, said that he has never voted in a U.S. election, but he voted in Israel after a right-wing extremist assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Harris became disillusioned by elections after current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who many accused of inciting violence against Rabin, won the election, and Harris never voted again.

Netanyahu has denied claims that he incited violence against the late prime minister.

Krista Borchers, a 21-year-old student at the University of Dayton, recently mailed in her ballot to vote in Northern Kentucky. She agrees with former Vice President Joe Biden’s proposals to address climate change and immigration.

Last year, the Pew Research Center projected that a tenth of eligible voters in the presidential election would be between 18 and 23 years old, a group that’s more racially and ethnically diverse than Millennials or Boomers. 

Borchers, who has close friends who are veterans, said she is put off by Trump’s comments on members of the military. The Atlantic reported in September that Trump called deceased members of the military “losers” and “suckers.”

Borchers, who is majoring in international studies, also said she opposed the Trump administration’s guidelines that could have forced international students to leave the United States if they took only online classes. 

“I have a ton of international friends,” Borchers said. “One of my best friends, actually, he is from Honduras, and he was legitimately freaking out.” 

The Department of Homeland Security later reversed the rule after pushback from universities across the country. 

Borchers said that she thinks Biden’s administration could strengthen relationships with countries like France and Germany and distance the United States from Russia.

After the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated in a 2017 report that Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election with the goal of helping Trump, a federal grand jury indicted a dozen Russian officers in 2018 for allegedly interfering with the 2016 elections. 

In a seven-minute press briefing with FBI Director Christopher Wray on Oct. 21, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and Iran has been sending emails to intimidate voters and “damage Donald Trump.” Despite Ratcliffe’s statements, The Washington Post reported that he did not disclose specific evidence that Iran was responsible for sending the emails, and other U.S. officials said the democratic process is most at risk of influence from Russia.

“That was one of the first biggest interferences,” Borchers said. “Russia has always been doing things in our country. They’ve been trying to get a stronghold or a grip or some sort of influence.”

Borchers said she planned to vote by mail in 2016, during her senior year of high school, but her ballot did not arrive with enough time for her to complete and return it.

Although Harris said this election is particularly consequential, his general position on voting in the United States has remained the same.

“My political stance has always been actually that I think that the voting system, I think our electoral process in this country, is horribly flawed. And I have a lot of opposition to how our political system works,” Harris said. “I have not wanted to participate in that process.”

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