Reflections of First-Time Voters in 2022

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Gen Z showed up to the midterm elections in a big way — __________. Many of these voters cast their ballots for the first time this past November. 

We spoke to teens about their voter registration process and first time voting. Their experiences differed based on where they live and how they voted.   

Brina Ratangee, Florida voter

Brina Ratangee, 19, said her first time voting this past November was confusing and ambiguous. 

After attending high school in Maryland, she changed her voter registration to Florida this fall because her parents moved. She chose to register to vote in Florida instead of Tennessee, where she is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, in an effort to “make her vote count more.” Davidson County, where Nashville is located, was recently gerrymandered, splitting the city between three voting districts. 

Ratangee described how the voter registration process lacked clear communication, making her unsure of deadlines and requirements, as well as whether her voter registration was approved. She added that she was surprised she was not able to request a mail-in ballot online and stated that the website of her county — Polk County — was not up to date.

“I’m honestly not even sure if my ballot was received in time,” Ratangee said.

Despite the challenges she faced, Ratangee said she felt as though her vote made a difference and that the voices of Gen Z voters were heard in the 2022 midterm elections. 

“I think we’ll see a shift as young people, who are becoming more and more passionate about issues affecting us and our communities, seek voting out as a solution—or at the very least, a step in the right direction,” Ratangee said. 

Simon Rosenbaum, Vermont voter

Like Ratangee, Simon Rosenbaum, 18, voted by mail. In contrast with Ratangee’s experience, he said Vermont’s process made it relatively easy to vote while attending Vanderbilt University as a member of the Class of 2026. Unlike Florida, Rosenbaum described how the process to request a mail-in ballot was digital. 

“I registered to vote ahead of time, and then requested my ballot easily on the secure online voter portal,” Rosenbaum said. 

Sophie Gross, Michigan Voter

Sophie Gross, 19, was surprised to find that her first voting experience went quite smoothly. 

“Someone in my sorority sent a message in group me saying that the art museum was doing early voting all throughout October and November and that Michigan has had historically long lines on voting day. So if you want to vote and not wait for hours you should go early. I just looked on their website when I could go, and I went and voted.”

Gross grew up in Washington, DC but is registered to vote in Michigan, where she is a sophomore at the University of Michigan. With DC so reliably blue, she decided she wanted to vote in elections that are much more contentious, where she feels her voice makes a real difference. 

Gross identified the contentious gubernatorial election and two specific ballot measures as major motivators getting her and other University of Michigan students out to the polls. The ballot measures would affect voting access and reproductive freedom, both topics that she described as highly important to young voters. 

The only surprise she identified along the way was the broad scope of the ballot beyond the more publicized races.

“I didn’t realize I was going to be voting on the school board or anything like that, so I didn’t walk in with any knowledge on those candidates but I was able to just sit down and look it up on my phone.”

Overall she described her experience not as transformative, but encouraging. 

“It made me hopeful. I felt like my vote in Michigan really mattered and like I really got to have a say. It made me more passionate about getting other people out to vote and more open to getting involved.”

Rachael Perrotta

Rachael Perrotta is a sophomore at Vanderbilt and is majoring in cognitive studies and communication of science and technology. She is from Cranston, RI, is Editor-in-Chief of The Vanderbilt Hustler and conducts research on sexual assault at Vanderbilt. When she’s not editing, she’s probably trying to convince you that she’s over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach.

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