18 year-old Elisabeth Roadcap is a senior at Milford High. On Tuesday -- New Hampshire Primary Day -- she voted for the first time in a national election. NHPR’s Sean Hurley has followed Elisabeth’s effort to find a favorite candidate - and spoke with her three weeks ago, met with her again four days ago, and was with her today as she cast her very first vote.
Editor's note: We highly recommend listening to this story
It’s late January. Elisabeth Roadcap takes me down a maze of high school hallways, past a wrestling match in the gym, through the cafeteria and finally to Mr. Alcox’s room.
“This room is definitely my favorite classroom because I think I just learned the most and really enjoyed the class the most in here,” she tells me. “And also we were We the People state champions last year, so it has special memories I guess.”
It was learning about the Constitution in Mr. Alcox’s We the People civics class that Elisabeth says made her, and those who took the class with her, excited about the election. “But my friends that weren't in the class just don't seem as interested,” she says, “and maybe just don't know the importance of it.”
At this point, we’re three weeks out from the primary, and Elisabeth has watched the two prior democratic debates, visited all the candidate websites, and has a top 3: Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.
“I think the environment is very important. I think a lot of my friends would agree with me,” Elisabeth says, “I definitely want a person who seems to want the best for America and not to be - have the democrats win over the Republicans, you know? I want it to be more of like, the country will move forward together instead of winning as the important factor.”
If she had to vote today, Elisabeth thinks she’d vote for Amy Klobuchar even though she’s not sure Klobuchar has much chance of winning.
A problem familiar to long-time voters - vote with your heart or with your head?
“I feel like that's the way we should vote, with our heart,” Elisabeth says, “because if you just vote for the person who you think can beat someone else it's not necessarily the person who's going to represent you the best, so I think you should vote for the person that aligns with your ideas the most.”
When I speak with her next on the phone, 4 days before the primary, and just after the trickling results from the Iowa Caucus, Elisabeth says she was surprised Amy didn’t do as well as she expected. “And I didn't realize Pete would be that competitive with Sanders,” she says, “so I found that to be surprising and also encouraging for me because I do like Pete. So I think I've narrowed it down to a top two.”
Warren has fallen away. Now it’s Amy or Pete. Pete or Amy. “Since the president is the commander in chief, I like the idea of having a president who has a military background. So that's one thing that I do like about Pete over Amy,” she says.
But pushing Elisabeth back toward Amy - “She's very active in her responses. She doesn't seem to shy away from any questions from what I've heard from her and she seems very willing to answer questions and be involved,” Elisabeth says. “And not to say that Pete isn't but I just liked her responsiveness.”
Soon enough, it’s Election Day….and before casting her vote at the Milford Middle School earlier this morning, I see Elisabeth talking with two classmates. “I was just asking my friends out there actually, how, how you do it?” she says and laughs, “I mean, I know you obviously have to bring your ID and ask for the ballot and but I don't really know exactly how to do it.”
But despite a little voter confusion, Elisabeth says she’s excited and nervous. “Maybe like the nerves before a test I guess,” she says, “or something that I really care about.”
A test with one answer and an answer she finally knows - and one she wants to keep to herself. “I wanted to show you my thought process but not necessarily, I guess announce my choice at the end because I think the process was more important than my decision,” Elisabeth tells me.
She heads off to collect her ballot and cast her vote. Afterwards, she says, "It was a little weird because I remember going with my mom a couple times when I was really young. So being the person that actually filled out the form was kind of exciting and different.”
And as she leaves the Milford Middle School gymnasium, Elisabeth runs into her old We the People teacher, Mr. Alcox.
“Success?” Mr. Alcox calls out.
“Success,” Elisabeth confirms.
“Was this your first time?” he asks.
Elisabeth Roadcap smiles and says yes.
Democracy and education in action.