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Voting For The First Time In The 2020 Presidential Election

004 Early Voting Miami Beach DS.jpg
DAVID SANTIAGO DSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM
/
The Miami Herald
File photo of voting stickers at an early voting site in Miami Beach, October, 2020.

Voter turnout in the November election is expected to be high in Florida and around the country. WLRN has been hearing from South Florida voters who are casting a ballot for the first time in a presidential election.

Stephanie Sepulveda, 27, Democrat

Portrait of Stephanie Sepulveda, a first-time voter in 2020
Courtesy Stephanie Sepulveda

“I grew up back and forth between Miami and Venezuela. I moved permanently to Miami when I was 16 years old, when the situation in Venezuela escalated. I recently became a U.S. citizen, and I'm now finally able to participate in elections and give back in a way to the country that has given me so much.

There are so many issues at stake in this election that motivate me to vote: considering the political climate right now, issues of social justice and race relations. As a Latino woman and a woman of color, I think these are essential to the functioning of our country and to saving our democracy. And in general, I don't like extremism.

I come from a country where extremism ruined our democracy or democratic institutions. Populism or a cult of personality — whether it be from the right or it be from the left — is very dangerous. I'm very aware of it because I've lived it.”

Concerned About Political Extremes

Cassidy Cosgrove, 21, Republican

Cassidy Cosgrove, first time voter in 2020
Courtesy Cassidy Cosgrove

"I'm the president of the College Republicans club at Florida Atlantic University. I'm a double major in political science and criminal justice. I've only voted in the midterm before in 2018, which was still exciting to vote for the first time. But, obviously, the presidential election is the highest election of them all. I felt I was actually participating in something, having my voice heard.

Joe Biden is working for the greater Democrat Party, and I think they're leaning more left every year. I see a great emergence with political-correctness culture. It's going too far left with cancel culture. Trump is a fighter against that. We have freedom of speech in this country. Trump is a real advocate for that. He might say the wrong things. He might not use the right terminology, but he's all for the freedom of speech. I don't see that with the Democrat Party.

We've been trying to get everybody involved in not only the Trump campaign, but also local elections in Palm Beach County. You know, real local grassroots campaigning. I see all the work and the time and the logistics that go through even a smaller campaign. I feel much more engaged."

Free Speech

Miles Mariano-Ortilla, 19, Libertarian

Miles Mariano-Ortilla first time voter in 2020
Courtesy Miles Mariano-Ortilla

"I turned 18 last year and I believe I registered to vote outside of Office Max. I was getting school supplies because it was toward the beginning of the school year. There was a person who was registering people to vote.

I voted for, I believe, my city council. During that time, COVID-19 cases were a lot higher. So I was a little bit scared to go out and vote in person. So me and my mom, we decided to do mail-in ballots. It felt empowering, actually, because you become a part of the American public life.

A lot of our elders see us as naive. But I think that my generation, our voices should be heard, and that we've been waiting for this election for a long time. 2016 really woke me up. That's why definitely this year is one of the most important elections in our history."

Coming Out As Third Party

Rosa-Maria Britt, 74, independent

Rosa-Maria Britt first time voter 2020
Courtesy Rosa-Maria Britt

"I grew up in Italy and I finally became a citizen three years ago because I decided I needed to vote. I decided I needed to give my input. Also, my son told me, It's time for you to become a citizen.

The way COVID-19 was dealt with in Florida or in the United States, I knew they were going to be disorganized. I didn't have much faith in the way our politicians were going to react.

The situation is so difficult. I'm so stressed with the news. I just hope that we can turn a page and start a new chapter.”

Why Is Everybody Mean?

Lariza Dominguez, 53, Democrat

Lariza Dominguez first time voter in 2020, posing next to her son Javier Dominguez
Courtesy Lariza Dominguez

"I've been a U.S. citizen for 22 years. I had never wanted to vote because I don't follow politics. But I was talking to my daughter and she explained to me the importance of voting this year because our vote could make a difference.

I disagree with Trump's politics, and I think my vote could be important in respect to the pandemic. He failed to listen to the experts and how that led to us having so much loss of life.

It's important to participate in the vote because it's a right we have as citizens. This is a right that we have here that we would have never had in our country [Cuba]. And I think that we should take advantage of this opportunity that we have."

Lariza's son Javier Dominguez helped out with the translation from Spanish to English.

New Direction On Covid Response


WLRN's Katie Lepri and Alyssa Ramos contributed to this report.