Of all the presidential elections that have gone down in this country, none—in recent memory at least—have shaken people to the core like 2016. If you asked anyone who they thought it would come down to back in 2012, chances are they might have guessed Hillary Clinton, but running against Donald Trump? No way.
It just proves that the only thing predictable about this seemingly never-ending election, full of memes galore, is that it will all be over in a few hours. (Please let it all be over in a few hours.)
Given that today is the big day, we wanted to know what might be going through the heads of people voting for the very first time. After conducting a survey through Google Forms, we received a bunch of responses about what this experience means to the millennial generation. Click through the gallery to read all of their reactions.
Daniela Tijerina, 19
Voting is super important to me because I grew up around campaigns for my father, and I know how much work and heart goes into them. I also strongly believe in fulfilling my civic duty by voting. It's the only way, as a civilian, to incite change and elect leaders who are able to help you accomplish this. It's this weird sense of power that I didn't think I would feel, but it's really validating to know my opinion matters.
I think it's always important to vote, but this time around, it's more than just casting a ballot. This election calls upon voters across the country to respond with urgency, and quite frankly to a crisis, and vote not only for yourself but for your peers, your neighbors, and those who need a candidate that isn't Donald Trump. This election is much bigger than just me and my personal beliefs; it's about humanity. It's hard to even call what's happening right now politics. I think that it's utter mayhem, and as unfortunate as it all is, it might be the wake-up call we needed. Here's to hoping that in four years we've learned from this.
Chloe Anello, 20
Because this election is so aggressive, I actually feel like my vote will make a difference. Although I am registered as a Democrat in the state of New York, which is a Democratic state [on the whole], I still feel like by voting for Hillary Clinton, I will make a difference, and I'm excited about that. It's important to me to exercise my right, but also because I am so passionate about Hillary Clinton becoming president, not only for the advancement she'd make in women's rights but also because I truly believe in her as a politician and I think she'd make a positive difference in our country.
Abortion has always stood out as an important issue to me. Women need abortion as an option, and I will never understand people, especially other women, who think that abortion should not be available. The reasons are endless as to why a woman might need an abortion, whether she doesn't have the means to support a child or was sexually assaulted or isn't ready to be a mother. An abortion can help save a woman from a choice she might not have been ready to make.
I feel like people in my generation are going to be harder to fool than people in previous ones. We are a very vibe-oriented people, so unless the politicians can learn to falsify the vibe, then we will always be skeptical.
Michael Dellapi, 19
I feel like there's a good amount of pressure on me by myself and my peers to make my vote count (whatever that means). All in all, though, I'm excited to be able to make these political decisions. Voting is important to me because it is the most tangible way for me to be involved in politics. While there are, of course, other ways for me to get involved, my current political knowledge is too limited to pursue further opportunities. In essence, voting is important to me because it exposes me to the political world and allows me to act within it briefly.
I decided to vote in the election because I wanted to be able to express my political alignment and rally behind a candidate whose values most closely aligned with my own. The critical issue that matters most to me is the handling of the refugee crisis and just generally dealing with issues of Islamophobia domestically. It's very disheartening to see that much of the political climate is based around slander and scandals, rather than the discussion of pressing issues. I understand that the political climate has been like this for a while from what I've heard from people that are older than me, but this is the first time that I have an active voting role. It's just odd to spend time looking up issues that matter to me and then find that a lot of resources are mostly devoted to calling back to what the candidates said years beforehand.
Annie Farber, 21
Voting is my constitutional right, and I think it's so important to use that right to make my voice heard. Especially knowing that 100 years ago women couldn't vote; I feel like it's an insult to all the women who dedicated their lives to getting that right not to exercise it.
Tatiana Cirisano, 21
This is the first election I'm eligible to vote in, and though it sounds cheesy, it felt kind of surreal to finally get to participate in the political processes I've studied since middle school. Voting is an opportunity to fight for what I believe in. Of course, there are other ways to voice your opinions on issues, but filling out your ballot is the chance to make a concrete contribution to the way this country runs. Why wouldn't you use it?
I voted from abroad, which was a confusing and time-consuming process, but I see it as my responsibility as a citizen to vote in every election, not a choice. Plus, I can't understand why you wouldn't use the opportunity to voice your opinion on who should run the country—that just doesn't make sense to me. There's a lot of extremism happening, which is something that scares me, whether it's extreme right or extreme left. On the other hand, I'm glad to see what seems like a huge increase in political involvement by people my age. (Though that could have more to do with the craziness of this election in particular than anything else...)
Syra Aburto, 20
I'm a black woman, and I know people in the U.S. before me fought for the right for my demographic to vote, so I feel it's my duty to take advantage of this right. We have crappy options, but one is far worse than the other. In my view everything is intertwined so all the issues are relevant, it's like one big knot of issues that feed each other. If I had to choose one, it would be the national debt.
Rachel Ferroni, 21
As a woman, I feel proud to vote, and I also want to be part of the reason why Hillary Clinton becomes president. It's my first time voting, there are issues I care about that I want to vote on, and I support Hillary Clinton and want to see the changes she promises she will carry out. I'm very sad to see how many people support Donald Trump and his hateful, misogynistic ideology. Climate change is the most important issue facing our world right now, and it's important to have someone in office who acknowledges and validates climate change as an actual problem.
Kathryn Weaton, 18
I want my views to be represented in political policies, and the only way to achieve that is to vote, especially in local elections as well as the presidential elections. I believe that women deserve the right to control their bodies, and having access to abortion facilities, free birth control, and good sex education is essential.
Miriam Julianna Sutton, 20
I cast an absentee ballot from Missouri last election but was an idiot and didn't know what getting your ballot notarized meant, so I signed my own name and obviously that didn't count. I want to run for office someday, so voting and volunteering for campaigns/being involved feels like practice. I understand that Clinton is problematic, but I really believe that she is going to be a great president. She won't shake up the two-party system at all, but I think she will help us move forward to a more perfect union.
Emily Greenstein, 21
It is an American right and not every country in the world has a say like we do. We can't let Trump win and not voting is a vote for him. I don't think that many politicians and lawmakers are willing to cross the aisle (on both sides) and come up with a reasonable compromise on key issues. They vote with their party, not with their conscience.
Katherine Swift, 19
I think that it's our right and every vote counts. I think everyone should vote in every election.
Jennifer Neufeld, 19
[Voting] is one of the very few things everyone can do that generates real and direct change. It's the one right I have, and it's pretty cool. (Plus Donald Trump is a wack job that must obviously be stopped.) Despite the fact that I do lean staunchly with one party and its ideology and am inherently against the other, I do feel that America thrives best when the gap between the ideologies of opposing parties is much smaller, people respect one another on both sides, and people are willing to accept compromise and understand that change unfortunately takes time.
Voting is a constitutional right that shouldn't be taken for granted. My dad isn't a U.S. citizen, and every election, he talks about the importance of the right to vote, and how we should always vote if given the opportunity. Right now, the issue of immigration reform means the most to me. My mom's side of the family is from Mexico, and since I grew up in Los Angeles, I really understand the problem of undocumented immigrants. While California always goes blue (and I voted Democratic), I wanted to be able to say I voted in my first presidential election right after my 18th birthday.
Carolyn Hanson, 19
[Voting] is the only way our government allows us to change the system at all. I feel as though an opinion doesn't mean anything unless you act on it. I think the two-party system is a failed, broken system. I wish I had better choices.
Kirby Kelly, 22
I have never been politically active, and the 2016 election is probably the most overwhelming, divisive election to have the privilege of voting in. It's become somewhat of a larger than life playground fight where the politicians are bullies and us Americans are the victims. Not everyone living in this country has the right to vote, so I feel like I have an obligation to do my part.
I think something that really stands out in this election as a clear issue is the treatment of women's rights. To me, this encompasses everything from reproductive rights to workplace sexual harassment (and even our right to vote... is this 2016 or 1916?). I'm not going to claim to be Hillary's biggest fan, but to me, it came down to either voting in favor of women's progress or setting us back 100 years. I worry about the future of my multiracial, non-white, and LGBTQ+ friends daily.
Elisha Brown, 20
I don't think complaining about the government is fair if you don't exercise your basic right to vote. We have a demagogue on the Republican ticket who will harm the reputation of this country and lives of millions of Americans, indirectly and directly, through his policies. I won't have a president who mocks reporters with disabilities or wants to ban an entire segment of people with a religion from entering this country. I also genuinely favor Hillary Clinton's policies. She isn't perfect—what politician is?—but has experience and a background compromising with folks who don't agree with her ideologies.
There hasn't been much focus on policy issues, just mainly scandals, both real and faux, so primarily I don't want someone who says sexually explicit things about women and manipulates a base of voters by playing up ethnonationalism and isolationism. Still, I would say ensuring that healthcare reform stays intact is also important. Many are concerned with power and not the actual wants and needs of the electorate. Not sure if I see the nation trying to compromise on issues anytime soon.
Maia Waxman, 21
I'm so excited; I've already picked out my I'm With Her T-shirt and a pantsuit to wear to the polls. I can't wait to see the first woman president. I couldn't vote in 2012 because my town didn't send me my absentee ballot in time, and I've been feeling guilty for four years. But now I'm proud that the first election I'm voting in is one of such importance, and that my vote can be for the first woman elected president!
Voting makes me feel like I matter in U.S. politics. It's easy to see congressmen strike down policies that I care about and think that I'm small and unimportant, voting gives me that sense of power back. Protecting the LGBT community is extremely important to me. A trans person helped raise me and is an amazing father to my niece and nephew. I want their family to have every right and opportunity that mine does.
Julia Kligman, 22
The election of Barack Obama was incredibly important to my family and me, and it was something I wish I could have participated in. Being able to vote for the first time for a woman and truly make history is nearly as important to me as the 2008 and 2012 elections. A lot of millennials my age are pretty apathetic about politics, but the importance of exercising your right to vote as a citizen is a right not to be overlooked. [I want to] ensure that a misogynistic, racist self-tanned bigot doesn't get anywhere near the Oval Office.