First-time voters assess ‘the system’


As this year’s crop of new voters prepares to cast ballots in one of the most vitriolic and social media-driven presidential races ever, the teenagers are looking not only at the candidates but at the political system itself.

Many, like Gavrielle Jacobovitz, 17, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, welcome the opportunity to vote. Seventeen-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election can vote in primaries.

“I think voting for the first time for me means feeling like I have a voice in politics for the first time, even if it’s a small one,” Jacobovitz said.

Along with many seasoned American voters, young prospective voters say they are frustrated about finding a suitable candidate.

“Of course, I’m excited to be voting for the first time, [but] I wish there were a candidate whose policies [are] more congruent with my views,” said Alex Rabin, 18, a senior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville.

Other first-timers are less eager to enter the world of American politics. Azriel Weinreb, 19, a student at the Community College of Baltimore County, said that while he might not ordinarily be inclined to vote this time, “the fear of having somebody like Donald Trump in office is enough to make me vote,” he said.

“I think our current system is extremely undemocratic,” Weinreb said. “We make fun of dictatorships that have votes with only one candidate but look at us — we [only] have two. You can say [there are] independents and other parties, but those are a joke [and] they have no funding.”

Many students say they get their information from social media, television, print and online sources and sometimes by word of mouth. Many of today’s youth are not formulating opinions based solely on their parents’ rhetoric or vote, but on information that they have sought out, analyzed and synthesized into their own opinion.

Even students who are enthusiastic about voting said they view American politics is somewhat rigged or broken, but most of them still find value in voting.

“I’m someone that is definitely disenchanted by our government, America politically, and our legislative process,” said Jacobovitz. “But, I’m also someone that firmly believes in using that legislative process to promote and create social change because, as we’ve seen, things tend to be top down in a lot of ways. When we don’t engage with the government, we cede it to whoever does, which means our voices and the justice we seek are never addressed,” said Jacobovitz.

“I think the system is broken only because the brashest candidates attract the most media attention, resulting in their popularity among voters,” Rabin said. “Few voters know much about the intricacies, or lack thereof, of the candidates’ policies anymore.”

Ben Stanislawski, 18, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, said the Democratic National Committee has favored Hillary Clinton. “The system is definitely rigged,” he said.

These politically aware students are following not only the presidential contest. Stanislawski, for example, is following Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Florida Democratic primary race.

“For almost the first time ever, she has a primary opponent in her district in Florida, Tim Canova,” Stanislawski said. “He is basically like Bernie Sanders, and if she loses, it will be a big deal,” he said. “I’m paying attention because it has important national implications for the Democratic Party.”

Meital Abraham is a senior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore.

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