Each Tuesday in July, The Dispatch will feature stories from young voters who will cast their first ballots for president this November, as well as those from veteran voters remembering their first time voting for president. The general election is set for Nov. 8.
SabriAnan Micha, 19
SabriAnan Micha, 19, from Starkville, registered to vote in spring 2015, so this November will mark her first presidential election as a voter.
While Micha sees this year’s presidential race appealing to citizen’s emotions, she describes it as “kind of insane.”
“It’s like an actual battle,” she said.
The college freshman plans to vote in November, and she encourages other young voters to commit to go to the polls.
“With our generation, we are super involved in politics,” Micha said. “People don’t want to vote without being educated, so I think that’s what keeps [young voters] out of the polls.”
She thinks school obligations make it difficult to keep up with political issues that do not immediately resonate.
“It’s hard to keep up with [politics] because we have so many other things going on at the same time,” Micha said.
“When I was in school, I didn’t [keep up with the race] as much as I wanted to,” she added. “But since I’ve come home, I’ve been catching up on a lot of stuff.”
When asked what discourses or people most directly influence Micha’s political ideology she responds, “mostly family members and friends.”
“I’m a first generation American, so everyone before me immigrated to the (U.S.). My dad was a refugee, so immigration is very important.”
Micha’s parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in the 1970s, so she and her two brothers are first-generation natural born U.S. citizens. This identity, coupled with her parents’ societal position as small business owners in Starkville, influence her views on social and economic political issues.
“They’re small business owners and every time the economy drops our income plummets,” Micha said. “That’s the little bit of the economy I know.”
Micha indicates many of her friends identify with the LGBT community, further shaping her stance on social policies.
Micha studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts but prior to college, she attended Starkville High School and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.
Studies suggest education may play a significant role in a person’s political ideology.
One 2015 Pew Research Center study indicates college-educated individuals tend to lean more Democratic.
Micha recalls her schools’ atmospheres and how they impact the views of her and her peers.
Micha said Starkville High School, where she attended ninth and 10th grade, had a “mix of people from all different backgrounds,” but she added her peers there did not tend to talk politics.
She said she witnessed slightly more political engagement at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, where she spent her last two high school years.
At Amherst, Micha sees a shift among the small student body toward liberal activism.
“Amherst is a very liberal place, so I feel like I’ve become more passionate about these things that I already cared about,” she said.
Micha stresses the importance of human rights issues.
When asked which issues she finds most important Micha says, “Definitely social issues.”
Micha’s stances on these issues, in particular LGBT rights and women’s rights, will impact her voting decision the most.
“I think I’ll vote for Hillary,” Micha said, indicating the candidate more closely aligns with her ideology.
Concerning Donald Trump, she said, “He basically stands for everything I’m against.”
Micha, an African American and Muslim, said Trump seems to stand against many groups of people.
“He very much taps into the raw emotions of racist, xenophobic, islamophobic people, and I don’t think that’s what we want in office,” Micha said.
The young Mississippian hopes education will encourage, rather than discourage, college students to vote.
When asked what could help young voters feel more connected to the political process Micha replied, “Just making that effort to educate yourself and making sure you know what’s going on, because when you do know what’s going on, you’re more likely to vote.”
Micha plans to vote absentee, as she will be away from her home state in November.
Like Land, Micha recognizes the role of community in politics. While Land appreciates a community bond between presidential candidates and the electorate, Micha sees the impact school and peer communities can have in influencing ideas.
She hopes the potential betterment of local and national communities encourage young people to unite and vote.
Betty West Land, 88
In 1952, 24-year-old Betty West Land cast her first vote in a presidential election, marking that ballot in favor of Dwight David Eisenhower. Eisenhower, a Republican, went on to best Democrat Adlai Stevenson that year. Land has voted in every election since.
“If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain,” said Land, who views voting as every citizen’s “right,” “privilege” and “civic duty.”
Land has lived in Columbus all her life. She lives on the south side of Main Street in the two-story white home where she grew up and attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Land attended Mississippi University for Women, graduated in 1950, and spent her adult life in “The Friendly City,” teaching first grade at Fairview Elementary School for 37 years.
Born in 1928, Land became eligible to vote in 1949 at the age of 21 and promptly registered to vote at the Lowndes County Courthouse. Three years later, Land helped choose a president.
Eisenhower’s election marked a historical turning point in southern voting trends.
Prior to 1952, southern states stood politically united under the Democratic Party. This political unity of electoral support from southern states was known as the “Solid South.”
In 1952, however, Eisenhower carried three southern states, marking the decline of the “Solid South” and igniting a shift in party ideology.
Land saw Eisenhower, a general during World War II, as “personable” and a “good president.”
When asked what values Land looks for in a president, she said a president should be patriotic and smart, should know how to navigate the government and should know how to compromise and work with foreign countries.
According to Land, every presidential candidate she voted for has won, with the exception of her vote for Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Land, who has cast a ballot in every local, statewide and presidential race since 1952, said she worked the polls at Columbus’ Carrier Lodge once because she believes voting is so important.
She recalls having to tally votes by hand, as they lacked counting machines at the time.
“We were there way into the night,” Land said. “It was fun. You could see who all comes to vote, and you can visit with people. When you go to vote now, I don’t see as many people that I know working at the polls.”
Land does not recall many big controversies surrounding particular elections.
“I just guess we had our mind set to vote for whatever Republican there was,” she said.
Land reflects fondly on past presidential campaigns, citing a sense of community she does not see today.
“I think in Roosevelt’s time they would go around on a train and stop the train and give their speeches,” she said. “It seems to me they used to stick more to the problems and the issues instead of being ugly like they are now. And I just might be old fashioned in that way.”
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