Young Voters Find Their Political Voice Three young people explain how they see politics and the issues during this election season. Miriam Archibong in Atlanta, Martin Macias in Chicago and Tonei Glavinic in Anchorage, Alaska, share their thoughts.
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Young Voters Find Their Political Voice

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Young Voters Find Their Political Voice

Young Voters Find Their Political Voice

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

With just a few days until Super Tuesday, when 24 states will hold primaries or caucuses, we wanted to find out from young people what the candidates need to do to get their votes. So we asked youth radio to provide some perspective from three distinct parts of the country. First, to Georgia, where African-American women are a key demographic.

Twenty-year-old Miriam Archibald goes to a historically black college in Atlanta.

Ms. MIRIAM ARCHIBALD (Junior, Spelman College): I like to think of myself as an individual, not as just a black woman. But I know in this primary, the fact that I'm black is meaningful to most presidential candidates. Frankly, I'm tired of all this talk about race.

My major issue is the same as so many Americans in my age group: Will I have a job when I graduate? Everyone is suffering at this point, not just African-Americans. It's something my mom and I discuss all the time. In my family, everyone follows politics. For generations, my family members have held city, county and state offices.

We all share our opinions with each other, but we vote our own way. For the upcoming presidential election, my family is already divided. The older ones still think along party lines. That's not true of my African-American friends. We don't care about party affiliations, and our issues aren't the same as theirs. Equality and inequality are important to us. But honestly, that's not our priority.

We don't say because this candidate is black I'm going to vote for them. We didn't struggle to get it the way my grandparents and their peers did during the civil rights movement. We make our own choices, and some of them might even be surprising.

For example, my boyfriend is an independent, and he supported Rudy Giuliani. He admires the way the former mayor fought crime in New York City. I say to each candidate that in order to get my vote, you must connect with me, have knowledge about salient issues, have a strong character and have respect for the diversity and unique cultures that form the American melting pot.

As my uncle often reminds me, don't major in minor. The major factors that we are all Americans. The minor is that we are different races, genders, ages and religions. The vote that I cast will be for the candidate who offers the best hope for America's future - my future.

Mr. MARTINE MACIAS (Commentator, Radio Arte): I'm Martine Macias in Chicago, Illinois. The first month of the presidential race seemed like exactly that to me: a race between elephants and donkeys. I thought to myself, why vote? Nothing ever changes, anyway. It's always the same people in power. This mood I was in was the product of talking with my friends, but at some point, I started to think that change couldn't completely happen in a coffee shop with my friends.

Now I follow things closely on the Internet and blogs, and how I want to vote changes every day. Sometimes when I come home at the end of the day, I'll talk to my family about the election. The most important issue for us is our physical and spiritual health and the health of those around us. Debating universal health care seems irrelevant to people's long-term well-being if you don't take a holistic approach.

In my neighborhood, it's hard to spend a little extra on better food and medicine when you can barely afford to live in your home. But this isn't the main issue blocking the path to a better life for the people in my community.

In Chicago, immigration reform is the hottest issue. Our state has one of the highest percentages of undocumented workers in the U.S. The people in my community want to know if mass deportation is the kind of radical change that is going to come with a new president, because we don't support it.

Supposedly, candidates are listening to Latino voters like me now. So to that I say, smart choice. With our buying power in the economy and the potential voting power that we will have in the future, it's no longer an option for them to rely on the digital divide to keep us out of the loop. We have Internet, too.

If you want my vote, show me everything there is to know about you and what you believe. Step up and acknowledge that Latinos, no matter how much money they make or what their legal status is, have a role to play in national politics.

Mr. TONY GLAVINIC (Commentator, Alaska Teen Media Institute): I'm Tony Glavinic in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska may be the largest state, but the idea of a candidate visiting here is pretty absurd. We only have three electoral votes, and many Alaskans aren't eligible to vote in the caucuses, anyway. More than half of voters here are registered as nonpartisan or undeclared. Besides, what's the point? It's not like the outcome of the election will be any mystery.

Alaska hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964. It's not just candidates who ignore us, though. Sometimes people don't realize we're a state. Since we're so far away from everyone else, people tend to forget about us, and we kind of like it that way. Alaskans don't like outsiders getting involved in our business.

Sure, there are some big issues that everyone knows about - things like drilling for oil and the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, global warming, polar bears dying. But when was the last time you heard a presidential candidate talk about polar bears? And even if they did, most Alaskans would vote for whatever would bring the state more money, regardless of the environmental impact.

I'm not most Alaskans. The young people I hang out with care passionately about so-called liberal issues: climate change, alternative energy and equal rights. So if I could get a candidate's ear for a few minutes, I'd talk about the problems that No Child Left Behind causes for schools in rural Alaska, and I'd ask what they're going to do about federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples who can't get married.

I'm not likely to get any of my questions answered here. That's why I'm leaving in the fall to go to college in Washington, D.C. So next year, when I can walk into senators' offices and ask these questions in person, maybe I'll finally get some answers.

HANSEN: First-time voter Tony Glavinic is a commentator with the Alaska Teen Media Institute. Martine Macias is a commentator with Chicago's Radio Arte, and Miriam Archibald is a junior at Spelman College. Their essays were produced by Youth Radio.

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