Virgin Voters: Casting the first vote

First-time MSU voters weigh in on election season, political issues

Next Tuesday, much of MSU’s student population will head to the polls to vote for the president for the first time.

Up until now, many young voters only have sat on the sidelines, watching others determine the country’s future leaders.

Many students said their upbringing and family’s beliefs are major factors in their voting decisions, and they will draw upon their childhood experiences as they shape their ballots.


In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election, students have been reflecting on their own experiences and researching the candidates, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

They’ve also tuned in with the rest of the nation to watch the two candidates go head to head in a series of three debates.

The State News talked to Republicans, Democrats and undecided student voters to see what influences them and how they plan to put their constitutional rights to use on election day.

Diane Paik, journalism senior
In 2008, when journalism senior Diane Paik was in high school, she watched the presidential debates with her government class and found herself agreeing with then-candidate Obama’s ideas.

Then, after learning about the anti-abortion bills that have coalesced in the Michigan legislature this summer, Paik knew Obama was her man — and this year, she can vote for him.

Paik said she didn’t have an affinity toward politics or voting until she realized what was at stake for her.

“I am a woman, and I don’t understand why these old, white men that are completely out of touch are telling me what I can and can’t do with my (body) and my possible child,” she said. “That’s not OK.”

Geoff Geist, advertising senior
Advertising senior Geoff Geist felt the effects of the recession firsthand last summer when he was forced to transfer schools.

A Birmingham, Mich., native, Geist attended Indiana University until last summer, when he realized he needed to move back to Michigan to take advantage of in-state tuition rates.

Geist said the slow economic recovery under Obama doesn’t really feel like a recovery, which is why he is voting for Romney in next week’s presidential election.

“A lot of that had to do with the economy doing poorly,” he said. “We were told, ‘Oh no, we’re on a recovery,’ (but) we didn’t see much of that.”

Jake Quimby, English junior
The Obama honeymoon is over for English junior Jake Quimby.

“When Obama first ran, I was blown away,” he said. “(His campaign) made me want to get involved — but less so now.”

Quimby hoped Obama would enact more social change, legalizing gay marriage and finding compromises on polarizing immigration policies.

But Obama hasn’t met his expectations.

Quimby still isn’t sure who he’ll be voting for, but he knows it won’t be Obama or Romney ­— he’s now leaning toward Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

“I didn’t think after four years that everyone would be at each other’s throats the way they are,” he said.

Paris Wilson, social relations and policy senior
Social relations and policy senior Paris Wilson believes in big government.

He believes it can provide the education necessary to effect change in diverse communities — which is why he voted for Obama in 2008 and will do so again on Nov. 6.

Obama’s beliefs on making education accessible in all communities resonated with Wilson, a Democrat whose family taught him to always be educated on the issue before heading to the polls.

Since he’s been at MSU, his classes have sparked his interest in politics even further, and he said there is no excuse for not knowing how the government can affect individuals.

“Education is my top priority because I’m in college,” Wilson said. “I want to get the most I can out of my degree and make sure I’m able to become employed.”

Kevin McInerney, social relations and policy sophomore
From his ultra-conservative father’s straight-Republican votes and his Democrat mother’s liberal votes, social relations and policy sophomore Kevin McInerney often saw extreme sides of the two parties growing up.

“It was always that the Republicans were always rich white men who just wanted to make more money, and the Democrats always seemed like the pushovers — the good guys who wouldn’t get anything done,” McInerney said.

His politically moderate views reflect his divided upbringing, but after coming to MSU, he found he agrees more with Obama’s views on higher education funding and wants to give him another chance.

Kaitlyn Thayer, kinesiology sophomore
Growing up as the daughter of a small business owner, kinesiology sophomore Kaitlyn Thayer saw her dad consistently vote for conservative candidates who made decisions that benefitted her parent’s boat marina in Jackson, Mich.

Now that she has the chance to vote, Thayer said she’s turned to presidential debates to develop her own conservative ideology.

While watching the candidates face off, Thayer said she and her roommates, who represent both sides of the political spectrum, take the chance to talk about their own thoughts about national issues. Thayer said she leans right, just like her parents.

“My dad (votes for) what is best for his business; I’ve worked there growing up, so I think that is why I formulated those opinions as well,” Thayer said.

Mike Viselli, economics junior
The 2008 recession caused working families across the country — including economics junior Mike Viselli’s family — to take notice of the government’s role in monitoring the economy.

Viselli, who still is undecided, said he focuses on the candidates’ policies and tries to learn about what the government is trying to do.

“I usually identify with the Democratic Party, … but I still need to look over the issues before I go into (the election),” he said. “I at least want to give Mitt Romney a fair chance and be able to look over their preaching for the next four years.”

Viselli plans to look over the candidate’s economic and education policies before heading to the polls.

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