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Politics & Government

Four First Time Voters in Eugene Share Their Perspective on the Presidential Primary

David Stuckey

As Oregon residents gear up for the 2020 presidential election, it is a defining moment for first time voters. Since Super Tuesday in March, four young adults in Eugene have explained how recent events will impact the way they will vote in the primary.

18-year-old Max Finney is a senior at South Eugene High School who identifies as queer. At the beginning of March, they said they supported Bernie Sanders because they want a President who will address the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community.

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
Inside the Eugene Public Library, Max Finney said they want a president who will implement policies to combat climate change. They also want someone who will provide more accessible healthcare to LGBTQ communities, such as gender confirmation surgery and treatment for HIV and AIDS.

And even though Finney does not think Joe Biden would provide enough change, Finney thinks Biden would be better than President Donald Trump.

“To be honest, [I’m] not super excited about voting for Biden,” said Finney. “I don't think he has a great legacy going into this. On the other hand, I think that he's also clearly better than the alternative of Donald Trump. But I guess the way I see it is Biden is like shooting yourself in the foot and Trump is like shooting yourself in the head.”

When handling the coronavirus pandemic, Finney believes Trump has put his own political interests before the general public’s health and wellbeing. And because of that, Finney thinks Biden has a good shot at beating Trump. Even with Biden’s recent sexual assault allegations.

“I think the thing that sort of morally allows me to vote for Biden with that allegation out there is the fact that his opponent Donald Trump has far, far more credible sexual assault allegations against him,” said Finney. “And to be honest, I never thought I would have to be in this position where I'm, you know, sort of ranking candidates over not, whether they have assaulted somebody, but how many allegations they have.”

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
Inside the University of Oregon’s EMU building, Khang Ngo said he supports strict immigration laws and believes lenient rules are unfair to legal immigrants.

But 28-year-old University of Oregon senior Khang Ngo believes the allegations will affect Biden in the polls. The Vietnamese immigrant did not vote in the 2016 election because he did not like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. But over the past few years, the current president has grown on him.

But Ngo said voting as a Republican of color has its consequences. As a former president for the UO’s chapter of Turning Point USA, he said he has experienced racism from liberal students when he is recruiting for the organization.  

“And whenever I'm tabling—not all the time—but some of the time when a bunch of leftist socialists walk over to my table, they'd yell obscenities at me,” said Ngo. “They call me Uncle Chang. Basically Uncle Tom, but for Asians. Or they call me bananas—yellow on the outside, white on the inside.”

“They call me race traitor because I don't believe in the Democratic Party,” said Ngo. “And it's coming from the whitest dude I’ve ever seen. So you're telling me I'm not really a minority because I'm not voting your way and your white person? You don't see the racism I'm in that.”

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
Isaiah De Alba brought his water bottle, laptop, and hat. De Alba and Khang Ngo both expressed similar viewpoints that someone's race or ethnicity should not define their political alignment.

Ngo still wants Trump to serve four more years. Although he does not agree with all of Trump’s actions, he does not think the way Trump has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, or the president’s nickname for the virus, will turn voters against him. 

“I don't think it’s offensive, it’s clearly coming from China,” said Ngo. “I mean, we call the Spanish Flu the Spanish Flu. I mean we've been calling it coronavirus, COVID 19, the Chinese virus, Wuhan virus. Does it matter how he’s calling it?”

But 20-year-old UO student Vanessa Robles said she has not been able to brush off some of Trump’s previous race-related comments. As the daughter of undocumented immigrants from Michoacan, Mexico, she thinks Trump’s racial jabs will only encourage young adults to be more active in politics.

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
Vanessa Robles said she wants more accessible voter education for minority communities and first generation voters.

“When Trump got elected—and he like said all those like racist comments, like on TV—a lot of people started speaking up about everything from smaller issues to bigger issues,” said Robles. “And it just— it's put like younger people in this unique position. People are understanding more and more where people from different communities are coming from. And so they're kind of seeing that and like taking that into consideration.”

Since many of Robles’ family members are undocumented immigrants or siblings who are too young to vote, she said casting her ballot means she is not just representing herself.

“It's a privilege to vote,” said Robles. “And I say it's a privilege because my parents and my uncles and aunts can't vote. So by me voting, I'm supporting them and advocating for them in a way because they're not documented. So they just can't vote.”

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
While inside the University of Oregon’s Knight Library, Vanessa Robles showed pictures of her family members. In March, Robles planned to vote for Bernie Sanders because she wants a president who will take care of working class immigrant families. Robles likes the idea of universal healthcare, but she wants to make sure it would be accessible to all residents.

18-year-old Isaiah De Alba is a Latino member of the UO Republicans. His father and grandmother are Democrats. But as an adult, he aligns with the republicans because of the conservative, family-centered values within the Hispanic culture.

Credit David Stuckey / OPB
At a University of Oregon residence hall, Isaiah De Alba said he is in favor of stricter immigration laws. He is against free higher education because he views the experience as an investment, and does not think all students would value the opportunity.

“When I actually got myself into politics and started researching things and figuring stuff out, I kinda just realized—I don't really like a lot of the stuff that the people over there are talking about,” said De Alba. “But I like what they're talking about. And then I thought about it, and I was like, ‘but these same people are the ones that people have been telling me are like bad people and all this stuff.’”

Despite the cultural and political differences between these young voters, the freshman encouraged people to be respectful of others when discussing politics. 

“Having political divide during this time is one of the worst things you could do because we're already all divided anyways,” said De Alba. “You know, we're all stuck at home all day long and we all have our own different views on what's acceptable as far as, you know, can you go out, can you hang out with friends, should you wear a mask. All this other stuff. I just don't think that having political divide is the best thing right now.”

Ballots for the Oregon primaries can be dropped off by hand to official drop sites by 8 p.m. May 19.

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