“I Just Didn’t Think It Was Worth My Time”

First-time voters explain why they’re paying attention now.

Ryan Fisher in front of a blue map of Michigan.
Ryan Fisher, 19, is the secretary for his College Republicans chapter. Photo illustration by Slate. Images via Getty Images and Ryan Fisher.

Welcome to the second installment of First Timers, an ongoing series of interviews with people who plan to vote in their first general election on Nov. 3, 2020. If you want to participate or know someone who does, email us at whocounts@slate.com. You can read the rest of the series here.

Ryan Fisher, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ryan Fisher is a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan and the secretary of the university’s College Republicans chapter. He studies psychology and organizational studies, and he plans to go into law. He grew up in Philadelphia, where he lived until he left for college.

Slate: Why haven’t you voted before?

I was eligible and registered for the 2018 midterm election. Both of the primary races for my district in Pennsylvania were projected to be won by—we’re talking double digit points. And I didn’t like the challengers all that much either. So I didn’t feel that my vote was very well placed in any direction. Not to mention the additional time it takes to fill out an absentee ballot. I just didn’t think it was worth my time.

Why do you want to vote now?

Now that I’m in college, and I am the secretary for our College Republican chapter, there is some built-in duty to vote there. I think this time around, there are more candidates I like. I’m going to get out there, especially for the presidential election, which obviously carries more weight than, say, a local district election.

What did you have to do, or still have to do, to be able to vote?

I’m registered, and I know my location to vote. I also know how to send in an absentee ballot. My high school kind of wrangled us all. They bombarded all of the students with emails regarding registration. It wasn’t mandatory. But if you wanted it to stop being emailed to you, you had to do it. I would have registered regardless of what they did, but I suppose it was good to have an easy way to do so.

I am considering switching to a Michigan registration. I’m in the College Republicans chapter here, and I guess it makes sense if I’m voting in the state that I’m campaigning in. I actually like more of the candidates in Michigan. But I’m definitely not fully decided yet.

What issues do you care the most about?

I’m like a libertarian conservative, if I had to group myself into, you know, one of the bubbles. So I do want to shrink government, and that is sort of my largest overarching priority. So legalizing more forms of drugs; gun rights; making sure police are accountable, so body cameras.

I’m pretty concerned about the economy. I like that the stock market is performing well at the moment. I like the lower taxes. I’m a supporter of sort of more free market international trade. And at the moment that is being hampered by a lot of tariffs. So that’s something I would like to see alleviated.

Supreme Court justices are a really big one as well. Just making sure that the people on the bench are going to be upholding similar values, and I guess, ultimately, similar policies to what I would like to see. I’m pro-life.

Which candidates—local, state, or presidential—do you like, and why?

I would probably support Andrew Yang. Then Tulsi Gabbard, and then Trump. After that, I guess it’s just a crapshoot. Obviously, there is no candidate that agrees with me on everything, and I suspect there never will be. But more or less I like the universal basic income proposals from Andrew Yang. And I like the noninterventionist policy set forth by both Yang and Gabbard.

I also liked that they’re authentic people who one could trust on sort of both a personal and a political level. And then once you move beyond those two, I do begin liking Trump just because the Supreme Court justices he nominated have done a pretty good job. And again, the economy is doing very well at the moment.

[Locally] I’m a big John James supporter. He’s an African American veteran. I liked a lot of his policies, his foreign policy was pretty good. But I’m probably more knowledgeable about the national level candidates. I’m only recently being introduced to Michigan candidates.

Nichele Yazzie, Navajo Nation

Nichele Yazzie is a 21-year-old member of the Navajo Nation. She works as a receptionist at a motel in Bluff, Utah, a half-hour drive from where she lives.

Why haven’t you voted before?

Everybody just really didn’t care, is what it seemed like growing up. No one would really talk about it. Nobody would really sit down and say, “OK, this is what’s going on, what they’re doing.” It kind of just pushed us to not worry about it.

Why do you want to vote now?

My mom does work with the Rural Utah Project, so I kind of get an idea of what she’s doing for our community and how this whole thing goes. I’m getting in a better understanding of it, but I’m just like, why didn’t we know about this growing up? Voting, it sort of says, “my voice is being heard, and people get to know that I have a say in something.”

Nichele Yazzie in an arid landscape with dark clouds behind her.
Nichele Yazzie, 21, is a member of the Navajo Nation. Courtesy of Nichele Yazzie

What did you have to do, or still have to do, to be able to vote?

I went to my local chapter house, and I registered with the Navajo Nation there. And then because Utah is the state, I registered to vote with them as well. I think with the Navajo Nation, they give you a copy of your card saying that you did register, and then you just take that with you and cast your ballot there. With the Navajo Nation, it was my certificate of Indian blood, and my IDs, and my Social Security card. The state was with my Social Security card and my ID.

They have a station set up in Montezuma Creek, and that’s about a 45-minute drive from here. They help you either register to vote or they help you vote there. But that’s just the state one. So if I was to do both, I’d have to go to Montezuma Creek and then go to the chapter house.

What issues do you care the most about?

My focus is on my people here. I do live in a big community where we have the younger generation, and then I also have my elders that live here. It’s like, what can they do for my community here? Whether it’s taking care of the elderly—or to change something [for] a better way of life.

Education would be one thing. As well as jobs. It’s really hard to find a job here. I mean, most of my family members have to drive an hour or across the state. Like my uncles here, who actually work out in Texas, Colorado—just like way, way out there.

Which candidates—local, state, or presidential—do you like, and why?

Right now, I’m still doing some research on some of the candidates. I’m trying to figure out what each candidate is fighting for. None of them seem like they actually want a lot of change, but it would be nice to have a change from the current president right now.

Mandy Hummer, Muncie, Indiana

Mandy Hummer is a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother of two. After a car accident from a drunk driving incident, she became a Baptist two years ago.

Why haven’t you voted before?

Me and my husband, we got saved two years ago. And before that, neither one of us really cared. I never thought it mattered. I supported Obama because I was with a group of people who felt like he supported them. I was like, “I don’t even care; the president doesn’t do anything.” And I never even thought about local elections.

Why do you want to vote now?

The church [does] all these programs to teach people in the congregation about the different representatives. Like, “Hey, these are the options, these are the parties, and this is how it’s going to affect the church and the [church’s] school.” I didn’t realize that starting literally in our own neighborhood, that can affect how my kid goes to school next year. And then it just kind of branched out from there.

What did you have to do, or still have to do, to be able to vote?

I was eligible for food stamps for the last two years, so every time I went into the food stamp office, they would ask me if I was registered to vote. I signed up about four times since I’ve been married, and somehow the paperwork never got sent in. So today when I went, they had my old name and my old address. All I had to do was show on my driver’s license. And change my maiden name to my married name and my address to my new address.

What issues do you care the most about?

It has to be something that backs my fundamental views, now, on the world. So, you know, a candidate that would support Planned Parenthood—we’re not going to do that. The school choice thing, that’s a really big thing. And also the gender equality thing. That’s hard for me because I don’t want to sound close-minded or biased, but my beliefs are anything deviant, including gender identity problems, or things that are sexual in nature, are sinful. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t love those people. But you have to know that you’re a sinner. Most people know this about me: I was in a relationship with a woman for five years. When I got saved, some of the sexual deviant thinking was taken away from me, and I could see how it related to the Bible. If we believe anything out of the Bible, we have to believe it all.

I want my kids to grow up with the same kind of values that I’m learning now. And I don’t want people coming in from the government and saying, “Hey, just because you believe this doesn’t mean you can force your values on your kids.” And I feel like politically, a lot of Democrats really support the idea that we should be able to tell the public who can teach their kids.

Which candidates—local, state, or presidential—do you like, and why?

One of the foundational aspects of church is you have to know that people are put in authority over you—even bad people sometimes—to do God’s will. And to think that Mike Pence is with Donald Trump right now is just like a godsend. I’ve said this about Donald Trump a bunch of times: He’s a terrible person, he is just a bad character. But he’s a businessman, and he can’t be bought. And so while God’s still working on me, he’s still working on Donald Trump, too. And I don’t know how he acts when not in front of a camera. I can’t judge that.

I came from a family that consistently said the Democratic Party was for the middle class to poor people. So I kind of always supported that. And when Donald Trump got in there, [I was] like, “Oh, this millionaire, how is he ever going to be able to run a country where so little percentage of the people have that kind of money? How will he know how to take care of the small guy?” And then my husband kind of guided me to these things that he was doing.

He’s done some—we’ll call it miraculous things. For example, the new tax deductions, the $24,000 for our tax bracket, which will continue even though my husband got this promotion and this new job. That’s an interesting new view on how he wants to boost the economy.

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