‘Students demand change, say COVID-19 issues, black lives matter
First-time voters in Florida want the leanings of candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden towards Climate Change, Immigration, and Environment to determine the outcome of the November 3 Presidential election.
The Guardian, in a breakout session with a handful of undergraduates from the University of South Florida, Tampa on Wednesday, found that the youths are inclined to voting Democrat’s Biden despite admitting that President Trump of the GOP performed well on economy. They explained that they have little or no choice in both candidates but would prefer Biden to Trump.
“The economy is doing well, but it’s not a priority for me; Environment is key,” 20-year-old Shannon MCLaughlin told The Guardian in a virtual chat.
The Guardian is one of the 13 global media organisations currently participating in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar (USPres Seminar), an immersive 12-day seminar for senior journalists to emphasise long-term knowledge acquisition and understanding of American governmental structures, electoral processes, and civil society engagement. Organised by the East-West Centre and steered by MS Liz Dorn as programme coordinator, the U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar will culminate in the coverage of the November 3 election across the 50 states of the country and terminate on December 7.
KIKI Caruson, an Interim Vice President at the Southern University of Florida, who participated in one of the virtual sessions, noted Florida as one of the critical states in the forthcoming election.
She said South Florida University, as a research-based institution and hub, has a strong bias for medical and health sciences research, the reason it “has a tremendous level of international engagement.”
She recalled the latest election polling that placed Biden slightly ahead of President Trump in the state and nationally, and said that winning Florida would determine the electoral college vote. “ Young people are turning out to vote in this election and they are particularly important,” Caruson said.
Saying that the university has over 50,000 students drawn from more than 140,000 countries, Caruson observed that U.S. Presidential candidates pay serious attention to Florida. As one of the critical swing states in Presidential elections, Florida was responsible for the victory of Republican’s George W Bush (Jr) over his Democratic rival, Al-Gore, in the 1992 presidential contest. Alongside Ohio, the state also ensured President Trump’s success in 2016.
Emphasising the importance of swing states and Electoral College votes in the eventual victory of any Presidential candidate, Liz Dorn of the East-West Centre said, “Each of the 50 states is entitled to as many electoral votes as the sum of its representation in the U.S. House and Senate.”
FLORIDA has 27 House Representatives plus two Senators, amounting to 29 electoral votes. Ohio has 16 House Representatives and two Senators, totaling 18 electoral votes; while Hawaii has two Representatives plus two senators, amounting to four votes at the electoral college. There are 435 House Representatives and 100 senators, plus three District of Columbia electoral votes, to sum up to the 538 electoral college votes, 270 of which a candidate needs (on December 5) to become president of the U.S., irrespective of the outcome of the November 3 popular voting.
In Florida, 4.5 million immigrants make up more than a fifth of the population, coming from places as diverse as Cuba (23 per cent of Florida immigrants), Haiti (eight per cent), Mexico (six per cent), and parts of South America. In 2018, an additional 2.7 million people in Florida (13 per cent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans with at least one immigrant parent.
“Environment is better; it’s not really good to focus on one single thing,” said 22-year-old first-time voter, Alexandria Wallman.
Wallman, who registered as an independent, said she would be supporting Democratic Party’s Biden, because those who support Trump came across as violent. She said Coronavirus would be an important issue in the 2020 U.S elections outcomes. “ I don’t want to die of coronavirus; “Mail-in vote is better,” she said, explaining why she would prefer mail-in voting to “standing 12 hours” to be able to vote. She, however, said she had not been able to get his mail-in ballot, a situation that could deprive her of an opportunity to exercise her voting rights in her country.
Wallman, agreed with her 20-year-old colleague, Mr. Abdullah, who said that Trump had helped to create jobs and improve the economy of the United States but still needed to have done more to win a return ticket to the White House in 2020.
Abdullah, in response to The Guardian’s question, had argued that Trump was good at campaigning on the Economy but would be too “money-minded” to deliver on more important benchmarks of Immigration, Environment, and social engineering.
ASKED what would be his attitude to the U.S. government should President Trump win popular votes at the November 3 presidential Election and/or majority votes at the Electoral College on December 5, Abdullah said he would still continue to “push for good” at the local level. “Although Trump is still in power, I will still do everything at the local level to bring about change,” said 20-year-old Abdullah.
Abdullah explained that he would be more inclined to vote out Republican’s President Trump than consciously voting in Democrat’s Joe Biden. He said Climate Change and Minimum Wage increase were uppermost on his mind and Trump didn’t appear to care about those. He also expressed delight with Biden’s choice of African American as Vice Presidential candidate. “The choice of African American as VP candidate was strategic. I have listened to her VP debate with Pence (Trump’s VP) and I agreed with some of her points.”
Samantha Schwarz, who had lived in the suburb of Florida, said she did “not agree with what Trump is doing via the Environment, in terms of what climate change can do to the world. There is no way to make it better if Trump remains President.” Schwarz said she was not going to vote for Trump before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States but that the pandemic and the way the government managed it was “ like a nail in the coffin.” She said it was “embarrassing how our (COVID-19) case numbers are, with Trump saying we will learn to live with it.”
She explained that she did not have a choice in Joe Biden but would prefer him to the Republican candidate.
FOR Samantha White, “People don’t respect Trump anymore,” it’s going to be a lot of trouble if Trump wins,” the 20-year-old South Florida University told The Guardian. We need someone who would build a good future for us and not destroy it.”
Another voter, Snow White, who also demanded change, said: “We do not see Science in our government anymore.” She explained that she would be voting for the Democrat candidate because she had no better choice. “I’m voting Trump out. I’m not excited to vote for Biden (either); it’s one option. As a second-time voter, I am not still happy, said 22-year-old Snow White.
Like Schwartz, Snow White expressed regrets that the primary election of the Democratic Party that threw up Biden did not give members a better choice of candidate.
Alexis King, another South Florida undergraduate and first-time voter, said she had to cast her ballot for Biden a week ago, as she would want to have a feel of in-person voting, not the mail-in option at her disposal. “I did not want the mail-in voting and I voted for Biden based on (his) Immigration (Policy); the issue was quite important to me, and I really want to see a change. I stand a lot on Black Lives Matter and I joined the protests.”
On how she was able to make up her mind on what issue was paramount regarding the 2020 presidential election, Samantha Cavallaro, whose mum is a teacher, told The Guardian that she relied on social media for information on candidates. “ Coming from a conservative area in Florida, I had to make up my mind after the first Presidential Debate. “The Pandemic is really important to me,” she said in justification of her support for opposition candidate Joe Biden.