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A Q+A with Alaska's young voters

  • Author: Kirsten Swann
  • Updated: May 18, 2016
  • Published May 2, 2016

Sure, the 2016 elections will decide the next commander in chief of the United States of America, but they'll also introduce a whole new group of voters to the U.S. political system. Teenagers across the country are preparing to cast their first ballots this year, so we reached out to some young Alaskans in Anchorage and Fairbanks for their take on elections, our political system and the future of our state. Here's what respondents to our informal five-question poll had to say.

Based on what you've seen so far, what's your opinion on our political process?

"I don't know how fair the political process is. I think that our political power is diminished with certain aspects of voting, like the superdelegates. That doesn't seem fair to me."

- Chloe Chaobal, 18, Anchorage

"Growing up, I was taught that we were this nice democracy that wanted to fight for more democracies, but I've learned that we are actually guided by capitalism and that we're not as democratic as I thought. After reading about some of the caucuses, I lost even more faith in our corrupt system. From coin tosses deciding winners to superdelegates blatantly ignoring the voting masses, it's pretty obvious our process is very undemocratic in some areas. Learning those details just added to frustration towards our political system and the well-known fact that candidates are basically purchased."

- Jocelyn Stanley, 19, Anchorage

"The politicians are distant from the common people, the majority of topics addressed by them are unrelated and unimportant to the average person."

- Ryan Emili, 18, Anchorage

"I think that politics are starting to lose the real value of it and it's becoming more and more of a popularity contest."

- Adrianna Tosi, 18, Anchorage

"My opinion on our political process is that it makes sense, but I feel that people do not research their candidates; instead they seem to go by whose voice is the loudest."

- Olivia Jeans, 17, Fairbanks

Do you pay any attention to election year political drama? If so, any thoughts?

"When I read about the election, I read the headlines, and what I find most interesting about headlines for election news is that you know the end of the story before you even click on the link. Everything is incredibly biased. Some of the articles make me angry because they distract from having an actual debate. For instance, just today I saw an article that talked about what Bernie Sanders wore in the most recent debate. When I see this I think, is that really relevant? This year is pure craziness with Donald Trump in the election. He shouldn't have even been allowed to get this far. I don't even think that in America we should be able to get this close to having a politician who lies so frequently. Do we really want to risk voting someone who lies for their own purpose? To me, that is manipulative and dangerous (for the world)."

- Chloe Chaobal, 18, Anchorage

"If Bernie (Sanders) hadn't caught my eye, I would probably be reading about anarchy and deliberately avoiding any political news, drama or even conversations. Instead I am in so deep. I still try to avoid clickbait links and pointless drama, but it's getting really difficult to do that. Keeping up with the politics is enough work for a full-time job, which is why it's so hard for voters to feel incentive to be educated and go to the polls. When I look at the presidential candidates I wonder how our nation got here. I wonder how humans got here. We allow people who preach hate and think their genitals are a good debate point to possibly lead our country. We allow inconsistent leaders who have thick histories in being corrupt that lie and avoid being held accountable for any of it to make decisions for us. We allow money to influence laws and cloud our morals and overall I'm pretty exhausted from the political drama. Still, I am trying to read articles, check sources and stay up to date on the candidates so that I can have a balanced view and an educated vote."

- Jocelyn Stanley, 19, Anchorage

"I have not, it seems trivial to me."

- Ryan Emili, 18, Anchorage

"The only political drama I've seen a little bit of is with Donald Trump and I think he's really bringing us back with the things he says and is becoming a joke to our country. He's not what we need as a president."

- Adrianna Tosi, 18, Anchorage

"I do not care for the political drama, although I do hear about it around my community. I think the political drama is pointless and spreads useless information that should have no bearing on our government."

- Olivia Jeans, 17, Fairbanks

Do you feel as if your vote matters? Why or why not?

"I think it is important to vote and be engaged in the political process, even if your vote doesn't count. It is a right to free speech, and I think that no matter how screwed up the political system is, if you don't vote, you are losing your opportunity to voice your own opinions. I think that regardless of what happens, we should all go to the voting booth thinking, 'I am lucky to have this right.' That being said, it is a little frustrating living in a red state, because I know when the general election comes, my vote won't really make any significant difference in the election as a whole."

- Chloe Chaobal, 18, Anchorage

"My vote definitely matters. I think that even if big business finds a way to buy the candidate they want, I'm still making a statement with my vote. Simultaneously by not voting, I would also make a statement; I don't have faith in our political process and it's not working for me. I will be voting this year, but it could possibly be the only year I ever vote. Aside from that, I think my generation underestimates our power in the polls."

- Jocelyn Stanley, 19, Anchorage

"The larger the election, the more insignificant my vote becomes. While on the small scale my vote holds weight in the fact that the voter base is smaller thus each individual vote is more important."

- Ryan Emili, 18, Anchorage

"I do think my vote matters. I believe every single vote makes a difference and it also is your way of having some kind of control over who runs our country."

- Adrianna Tosi, 18, Anchorage

"I do feel that my vote matters. Although my individual vote does not select who the next president will be, it does count in a more complicated way. Specifically in Alaska, there is a small population of voters but at the same time, people's votes in Alaska count more on a national average than a state with a bigger population like California for example."

- Olivia Jeans, 17, Fairbanks

What are your thoughts on Alaska's role in the national political process?

"I think it's sad that a lot of other states disregard Alaska as being unimportant. I think the election is a good opportunity for us as Alaskans to say that we are a part of the United States, and we do have a say in who leads our country."

- Chloe Chaobal, 18, Anchorage

"I don't know enough about Alaska's role in the national political process and that's probably because our state's influence has been downplayed to me for as long as I can remember. I've always been told our votes didn't matter here and still don't know why ... or, that could be."

- Jocelyn Stanley, 19, Anchorage

"Alaska's only relevant role in the national political process is in the Senate, and our representatives are 'yes men' to their own political parties; they are more focused on maintaining their own status than contributing to the betterment of Alaska."

- Ryan Emili, 18, Anchorage

"I think Alaska is starting to be more a part of and included in the country politics compared to years ago I don't think we played as much of a part."

- Adrianna Tosi, 18, Anchorage

"Alaska is a very conservative state; our state is a firm believer in our First Amendment rights and I believe that plays a very important role in our nation's political process."

- Olivia Jeans, 17, Fairbanks

What are your thoughts on Alaska's political future? What about your future here?

"The good thing about being 18 and heading off to college is that I have no idea where I will be living next year, or if I will be living in Alaska in the future. I love Alaska and it is my home, but I don't know if I plan on living here in the future. Alaska's future could be good, but it could also be very bad. I'm hopeful though. I think Alaska's future depends on how creatively people can solve problems in the future. Alaska is a unique and beautiful state, and I think it will always attract interesting people ready for an adventure. If we keep the spirit of Alaska strong, I think Alaska will be OK. That might be too optimistic for some, but I think that is the kind of outlook we need right now."

- Chloe Chaobal, 18, Anchorage

"I travel a lot so one of my struggles this year, among trying to stay educated and remembering to be registered to vote, is figuring out how to absentee vote. I'll be in another state for the primaries and another country for the general election. I'm nervous that something will go wrong and I'll lose my vote. This year I also realized how much voting needs to be done before the general election. I've been strongly advocating for my peers to go vote because it's not that hard, but it's so much more complicated to be involved in each round."

- Jocelyn Stanley, 19, Anchorage

"In the next decade, without the discovery of more natural gas resources, I'm afraid Alaska's economy will take a turn for the worse. However, I plan to stay a resident of the state after college."

- Ryan Emili, 18, Anchorage

"I think we need more young voters and for people to vote in general. We have had a lot of the same politicians for so many years and yes, they probably did their job well back then, but it's a new time and we need people to be elected that understand how so much has changed and works with it instead of ignoring or trying to stop that growth in our state and leave things the same."

- Adrianna Tosi, 18, Anchorage

"I feel that Alaska's political future is bright and I am very excited to see where it goes from here. I am confident that my future here is going to be successful, and I am ecstatic to see what opportunities I will have after my high school career."

- Olivia Jeans, 17, Fairbanks

This article appeared in the April 2016 issue of 61°North, a publication of ADN's special content department. Contact 61°North editor Jamie Gonzales at jgonzales@alaskadispatch.com.

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