Young Voters speak series: Florida (includes audio stories)

As Election Day approached, more than three dozen journalism students reached out to about 150 young voters in late September in Florida and Wisconsin to find out who they were voting for and why. The two states were chosen because of a disparity in their turnout rates – the Sunshine State ranks 40th in the nation for voters between 18 and 24 while the Badger State is first.

Though not scientific, far more young people in Florida either remain undecided this late in the game or are only grudgingly voting for Joe Biden as compared to Wisconsin, where the former vice president’s support is more solid.

Still, Trump supporters in both states are far happier with their choice, something in line with a Harvard University poll that looked at voting preferences in that group last month.

Below is a selection of voter vignettes representing a cross-section of geographies and political beliefs.

– Professors Dan Evans and Neil Reisner

Erick Flores, who recently graduated from Valencia College in Orlando and is looking to finish his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida, has never supported President Donald Trump.

“He should care about the people,” Flores said. “He’s the president, but I don’t really think that he really cares. He just cares about the money, the economy, and that’s it.”

Flores, 23, said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and will vote for former Vice President Joe Biden this November. He said he can’t trust Trump to tell the truth.

Flores said his biggest issues are women’s rights and immigration policy. He said he will be thinking of his mother, who has few opportunities, and his friends, who are mostly Venezuelan immigrants, when he casts his ballot on election day.

– Samantha Morell

Trinity Tresner, a sophomore and the student government vice president at Valencia College, said she wants to encourage young people to vote in every election they can.

“I feel a great responsibility to vote on behalf of everybody who can’t vote,” she said, “whether that be the younger generation or people from another country who are ineligible to vote.”

Tresner, 21, said she is affiliated with many nonpartisan groups, such as the Campus Election Engagement Project. Through these organizations, she said, she is able to inform her peers of the importance of voting — and also to help them to get registered.

Tresner, a Democrat, said she believes her vote will be especially important since Florida is a swing state. She said her biggest concerns are fighting climate change and more humane immigration policies. She will be voting for candidates who share her values.

– Samantha Morell

Ashley Alectine, a 21-year-old senior at the University of South Florida, said that she thinks both Trump and Biden are bad choices for the upcoming election.

“I just feel like my morals and values, and the things I look for in a president, are just not really represented on this ballot,” she said. 

Alectine said that although she thinks Biden is not her ideal candidate, she would vote for just about anybody over Trump. 

“In regard to whether Trump or Biden are better or worse, I feel like it’s picking the lesser of two evils,” she said. “They’re both pretty bad, but if I had to choose, I wouldn’t choose Trump, I would choose Biden.”

– Julio Mendez

Leonoria Beasley, a junior at Bethune-Cookman University, said she has been thinking about how the election results will impact her school. The private, historically black university is located in Daytona Beach.

“As an African American, it’s always been difficult for my demographic to have a political voice,” she said. “A lot of us think we don’t get a say-so on who becomes president or on what laws we govern ourselves by.”

Beasley, 20, said she believes that Biden’s healthcare, college tuition, and racial equity plans will bring a brighter future for her and her peers.

“You know, if you’re not voting, then you become part of the problem,” she said. “If you’re not pushing toward a solution then you’re evidently adding onto the issue.”

– Jose Ribalta

Zipporah Brown, a freshman at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, is a registered Democrat and wants to see changes in policing, racial profiling, and workplace discrimination.

“With everything that’s happened this year, it kind of overshadows anything that has happened in the last two years,” said Brown. “All these things are happening and, you know, [Trump] had the power to stop it and he didn’t.”

She said she’s hoping Biden wins, but believes Trump could pull it off.

“Honestly, I’m hoping that it’s Biden, but I feel like it’s going to be Trump,” said Brown. “People don’t learn from their previous mistakes. But I’m still going to vote, you know, every vote counts.”

– Jose Ribalta


Jordan Stern is a first-time voter and has “no idea” who she will choose.

The 18-year-old University of Florida student, originally from Miami, had not previously been interested in politics, mainly because she wasn’t old enough to take part.

“I feel like now I need to actually participate and be more knowledgeable,” she said. “I’m starting to open my mind up and listen to my friends, family, and the news’ perspectives.”

Although she’s a registered Democrat, she’s still forming her stance on political issues.

“I still don’t really know that much. I need to do more research, but I’m happy to be able to put my input,” Stern said.

She plans to become a more informed voter by Election Day, admitted it’s been a struggle.

“I just didn’t feel like my voice mattered since I wasn’t voting,” she said.

– Selena Stanley

Cesar Flores, a senior at Florida International University, said the election is far from an ideal situation.

“I feel like it ended up being a situation where similar to 2016, we have to pick the lesser of two evils, because both candidates have things that are negative about them,” he said. “It’s just a difficult situation with everything that’s occurring in the country.

Flores, 20, said he supports Biden although he was originally in favor of Bernie Sanders. Flores is displeased with President Trump’s lack of response toward the pandemic, furthering racial tensions, and ignoring the climate crisis. He believes that Biden will work to resolve these issues.

“There are so many situations that need to be addressed that our current president isn’t addressing at all.” said Flores. “If he’s not addressing them, he’s rather exacerbating them.”

This will be Flores’ first time voting in a presidential election, though he voted in the 2018 midterms.

“Your vote counts from the highest point which is the president all the way down to your local councilman,” said Flores.

– Deniel Dookan

Lara de Vries, a sophomore at the University of South Florida, said most politicians do not care about young people’s concerns.

De Vries, 19, originally from Argentina, is a member of the student senate and campus council at USF.

“Of course my vote matters! All votes matter!” said de Vries.

Though she said she would have voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because she’s Jewish and appreciates his pro-Israel stance, she is going the other way this time.

“I’m leaning towards Biden,” she said. “Trump did a really bad job addressing the pandemic, and he has been very disrespectful with other countries and minorities in the U.S.”

– Daniela Ghelman

Benjamin Mizrachi, a junior at the University of South Florida, said he wants to vote for a politician with a backbone, values and principles.

“Back in 2016, I would not have voted for Hillary Clinton because, for me, she seems like someone who’s doing things just for the votes,” said Mizrachi.

He said he believes politicians care about young people’s demands only after the group becomes more politically involved.

“Both Biden and Trump are trying to appeal to younger crowds,” said Mizrachi. “Biden appeals to younger liberal cities that tend to be on the coasts such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Trump focuses more on communities that have been typically overlooked by politics, such as working-class cities in the Rust Belt.”

Mizrachi is not sure for whom he will vote this year; however, he is almost certain he will vote for Trump.

“I don’t like Biden working with the progressive party and the ultra-left block,” said Mizrachi.

– Daniela Ghelman

McKennah Connett, a junior at the University of Central Florida, is undecided on whom to vote for and may abstain entirely in November.

“I don’t think I’ve settled on anyone. I’m kind of in the camp of not voting, which sounds really terrible… but neither of them support policies that I’m personally for. Both of them want to raise police budgets, and both of them are globally in the right rather than to the left,” she said.

Connett, 19, thinks that neither of the running candidates for the upcoming election cares about the concerns of young people.

When asked about whether she thinks her vote matters, she agreed, but “only because I live in a swing state.”

“I’m registered with Democrats, but I would have registered as independent if you could vote in a primary,” she said, referencing that Florida is a closed-primary state.

While Connett is considering not voting at all this year, she’s also considering voting for someone that’s not a Republican or Democrat.

“I’ll probably look for a third party, one that aligns with my views,” she said.

– Jason Grioua


This story has been supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.