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Young, First-Time Voters Share Views On Election In Two Weeks


You have heard it again and again - this is an extraordinary election, unlike any other in recent memory. OK, so now imagine it's your first election. We talked to a few young voters making their choices for the very first time in a general election.

ASHANTI MARTINEZ: So my name's Ashanti Martinez (ph). I'm 20 years old. I'm from Prince George's County, Md., and I'm voting for Hillary Clinton.

LAUREN SMITH: Hi, I'm Lauren Smith. I'm 20 years old and I'm voting for Trump.

GENESIS LARIN: My name is Genesis Larin. I'm from Houston, Texas. And I'd say I'm a conflicted voter but leaning towards Hillary Clinton.

NICK TOMCHIK: My name is Nicholas Tomchik (ph). I'm from Winslow, Maine. I'm 20 years old, and I'm voting for Gary Johnson.

MARTIN: All right, so I want to learn more about how each of you came to your decision. So I'm going to start with you, Lauren. You're voting for Donald Trump. Did you support him in the Republican primary?

SMITH: No, I actually supported Ted Cruz. And, you know, I have to say, there's no question that this election cycle has been unbelievable. So I'm voting for Trump because not only am I a Republican but he has a pro-life agenda. He's for a limited government, and that's what I support. Am I happy with him? No, absolutely not.

MARTIN: Nick, you've decided to support the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. How come? Why not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Why go with a third-party option?

TOMCHIK: All my life, I've gone against the status quo. I'm a Libertarian myself. I definitely believe in what Gary Johnson has to offer, his policies - minimizing the role of government, pro-choice. You know, we've got to cut the wasteful spending. We've got to offer an alternative. And especially with this election being so, you know, as Lauren said, you know, pretty much crazy, we've got to have another choice. And he brings that to America. And I really like that.

MARTIN: Genesis, you said you're leaning reluctantly towards Hillary Clinton. But I understand that's a big deal because you're a registered Republican.

LARIN: I actually did not register with, like, a specific party affiliation. But yes, I am, I guess, leaning towards Hillary Clinton just because I'm very disappointed in the candidates that I have to choose from. But I just can't support what Donald Trump has said, even though I did vote Republican for the primaries. However, I did vote for Marco Rubio. I feel like this election, at least for me, has come down to voting against someone instead of a vote for someone that actually aligns with a lot of, like, my views for certain issues.

MARTIN: And you haven't found that in either of the major party candidates?

LARIN: It was mentioned before that Hillary Clinton, her experience as far as policies - and I do take into account her experience. And I guess I feel comfortable because she has been around.

MARTIN: What do you not like about her? What gives you pause about her?

LARIN: Part of it is her scandals. But it's also she has, you know, kind of switched sides on some of the policies. So if anything, I was kind of confused on, like, exactly where she stands because it just comes off as she's saying certain sides just to get a vote.

MARTIN: Ashanti, what do you think when you hear that? I mean, you're an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, but she's had kind of a tough time making inroads with people your age. What are the top issues for you?

MARTINEZ: One of them would be definitely college affordability, making sure that no matter where you are on the income spectrum in this country that you can go to college debt-free or that you can leave college debt-free. The next issue for me is health care, making sure that folks are able to have quality health care in this country. And then I guess the next issue for me that really comes home is criminal justice reform. Too many people of black and brown skin color, that look like me, go to jail, oftentimes, for sentences and things that they shouldn't have.

MARTIN: I want to ask you, Lauren - you heard Genesis say that she identifies as a Republican. She voted for Marco Rubio in the primary, but she's considering voting for Hillary Clinton. What do you say to her?

SMITH: I think as a Republican, I don't understand how you could support Hillary Clinton. And I understand many of what Trump has said is, quite frankly, deplorable. And I completely get that. However, if you're a Republican, if you believe in limited government, if you're pro-life, vote for Donald Trump. And again, that's the issues that I fully support and that I want to see happen in America. I want Roe v. Wade to be overturned. So Genesis, what I would say to you is, what issues are holding you back? And why can't you vote for Donald Trump, if I can ask you that...


SMITH: ...Just head-on?

MARTIN: Genesis, you want to answer?

LARIN: Yeah. So I'm actually pro-choice. I do...


LARIN: ...Believe that climate change is something that we need to address. That being said, I've never particularly, I guess, been completely on board with bigger government. And that's something that I think is what makes me more conservative, even though I guess I'm more left-leaning.

MARTIN: You're that coveted independent, Genesis, who everyone wants.


MARTIN: You're that coveted middle-of-the-road voter.

LARIN: (Laughter) Yeah. And I feel - the way I approached the selection wasn't blue or red or green, even. It was I wanted to find a candidate that I think was most representative of my view and whose competency in doing this, at being president, I would feel comfortable voting for.

MARTIN: Nick, let me ask you this - are you feeling enthusiastic about your choice? Like, are you - how do you feel about supporting Gary Johnson?

TOMCHIK: Yeah. I honestly am very enthusiastic about supporting him. That's the thing that I think makes me different and also maybe the Libertarians or the independents that are, you know, supporting Gary Johnson. They're actually voting for someone because they really like his policies.

MARTIN: And you don't buy the argument that a vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, on the other side - the Green Party, is a de facto vote for the other party, be it right or left?

TOMCHIK: Not at all. I definitely think that that plays into the fear-mongering because from a lot of people I hear, they want to vote for Gary but they're - you know, they tell me that argument. And essentially, if all the people who, you know, actually voted third party - said that they're not going to vote for the third party because of that voted third party, then, you know, Gary Johnson has a huge chance of winning.

MARTIN: Lauren, your candidate, Donald Trump, has had a hard time getting the kind of support from women voters that he needs to put him in good standing when November 8 rolls around. Why do you think that is, especially when you talk to your peers, other young women? I mean, how much of it - of the reluctance has to do with the kind of rhetoric we've heard from him, those recent comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape? Is that coming up in conversations?

SMITH: You know, a lot of my peers, especially the women, do support Donald Trump. I don't condone sexual assault. I mean, that's utterly ridiculous. But we have to remember that was a long time ago. I mean, 2005 happened almost 11 years ago. So as far as Donald Trump's comment on women go - does it bother me? It does in some ways, but I'm choosing to look at the bigger picture. And I'm choosing to look at America as a whole instead of trying to, you know, just go and tear Trump to shreds over what he said in the past. So the women that I have spoken to, especially the the Women for Trump here in Virginia, of course they support him.

MARTINEZ: If I can chime in, Rachel.

MARTIN: Go for it, Ashanti.

MARTINEZ: For me - right? - I've talked to a lot of women. I'm around women often. And these Trump allegations about him sexually assaulting women and bragging about it is deplorable. And it's something that is definitely on people's minds, especially around my age group. But this isn't the first instance, right? We look at the comments that he had with former Miss America and former Miss Universe contestants. We look at the comments that he had about contributors on different networks. We look at the comments that he's had of people on his own show, on "The Apprentice," and how he's treated women throughout his career, whether it be in real estate or whether it be on television. So to me, to say that these things don't matter is wrong. This man has so many different things that don't speak to our country as being inclusive and as progressive as we should be. And I think that's why he's not qualified.

SMITH: Well, I certainly understand that position. But I also have to say I don't want Hillary Clinton as president.

MARTIN: This is your first time voting in a presidential election. So how you feeling? I mean, what are the conversations that you're having at home or with your friends? Are people animated to get out and vote? Is there a sense of apathy? I'm going to start with Lauren. What are people talking about in your circles?

SMITH: There's one side, the 50 percent - they're very apathetic. They don't want to get out and vote. You know, I've lost friends because of the way I'm voting. And, in some ways, I understand that.

MARTIN: You've lost friends, really?

SMITH: I have, yeah. But I would say that as a 20-year-old, as my first election, I can't believe these are the two candidates I have to choose from. I think - like, I don't know about you all, but this is just unbelievable.

MARTIN: Anyone else want to weigh in on this? What are the conversations...


MARTIN: Nick, go ahead.

TOMCHIK: Yeah, I agree 100 percent. And I can't wait till it's over. It's been very crazy. I've had some (laughter) - I've had some tough conversations with, you know, friends and family because I've got some family that's, you know, voting Trump because they don't like, you know, the Clinton, you know, scandals and, you know, a lot of her immigration stances, and then also my other friends and family who are voting Clinton because they don't want Trump elected. So I'm kind of in the middle here, you know, preaching the alternative. And it's really tough. And from what I've seen, people are, you know, in my circle, at least, excited to get out and vote.

MARTIN: Ashanti, are you excited? I mean, it's the first time you get to go to your polling station and cast a vote for president.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, no, I'm extremely excited. I mean, I've been with her since she announced. And it's one of those things where I'm looking forward to her presidency, right? And I'm looking forward to January and what her next four years is going to look like in the White House.

MARTIN: I will leave it there. Ashanti Martinez, Genesis Larin, Lauren Smith and Nick Tomchik - they are voting in the presidential election for the first time.

Hey, you guys, thanks so much for talking with us.

MARTINEZ: Thanks for having us.

SMITH: Thank you.

TOMCHIK: Yeah, absolutely. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.