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Younger voters say Israel’s war in Gaza and civic responsibility is pushing them to the polls

Nash Jones
Polls are now open at 7am and close at 7pm.

Historically, voters aged 18-34 are some of the most underrepresented in elections across the country – but, these trends are starting to shift as younger folks are becoming increasingly politically active and more diverse.

Now, on this election day, younger voters and students say they are casting ballots to exercise their civic duty and to protest U.S. involvement in the Israel/Gaza war.

Eileen O'Shaughnessy is a PHd candidate at the University of New Mexico and a teacher at Central New Mexico Community College.

“I think voting is one way to express your opinion to enact social action,” O'Shaughnessy said.

While O'Shaughnessy was excited to cast her ballot, she also decided to use it to protest her party’s presidential candidate – Joe Biden – for his strong stance on Israel’s war in the Middle East.

“I just cast my vote for uncommitted. And there's actually a movement right now, to hold President Biden accountable for his actions around the genocide that's happening in Gaza to send a very strong message that genocide is not acceptable and U.S. support of Israeli sponsored genocide is not okay.” 

Typically, when a voter selects “uncommitted” in a primary election, this means they are exercising a vote for that political party, but not any of the listed candidates.

On the other hand, first-time voter and combat veteran Justin Iselin looks at the primary through a completely different lens, saying he has actively avoided consuming any type of news and feels uninformed about specific candidates.

“I feel dutifully obligated to learn on what the primary is and the candidates and, and take my vote on that… Otherwise, what's freedom for? But, I have work to do and diligence to perform before I can get there” Iselin said.  

Similarly, voter Aidan Beining considers voting a privilege.

“I just think it's like an important kind of civic responsibility to make your voice heard," Beining added. "I just think that it's something that we should take advantage of.” 

That sentiment rang true with several others, including Samantha Linney, who works in UNM's human resources department. She describes herself as a “patriot.”

“A lot of people say that casting their vote is just kind of like throwing your vote out in a bucket, you know, the abyss," Linney said. "But, I really think that, especially in primaries, it's important to cast a vote because that kind of drives the bigger elections.” 

New Mexico will be among the final states to cast ballots for presidential nominees for presidential and state primaries. All seats in the state Legislature are also up for election, as well as some local races.

Polls open at 7am and close at 7pm.

KUNM’s Mia Casas contributed to this report.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
Mia Casas is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Journalism and Theatre at the University of New Mexico. She comes to KUNM through an internship with the New Mexico Local News Fund and is staying on as a student reporter as of fall 2023.
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