What voting feels like when you are 18 in 2020

Zipporah Mooney voted for the first time this election. (Courtesy of Zipporah Mooney)

Zipporah Mooney voted for the first time this election. (Courtesy of Zipporah Mooney)

This 2020 general election marks my first time voting — ever.

I registered to vote four months before I turned 18. Being of age in 2020 meant that I knew to request my mail-in ballot immediately — the coronavirus pandemic meant  I wouldn’t be making my debut at the polls this year and would instead be one of the 17 million Americans who chose to vote early.

Walking up to my local polling place, Anna Blakiston Day School, I felt overwhelmed. The lines stretched and wrapped around the building almost twice. But once I finally reached the front of the line, the long morning felt worth it. My heart dropped with the realization that I was turning in a slip of paper  with the power to make a difference in my neighborhood and in the lives of those around me. I felt like I was turning in an application for adulthood.

Some believe it is pointless to vote, that their one vote is “useless.” But, I know that is simply not true. That one “useless” vote can swing an election in any direction — it’s happened in Wyoming and in Missouri.

We all have a voice that deserves to be heard and we should all use it.

There are a number of issues in the United States right now and how the candidates plan to address them is what ultimately helped me make my decision on who I voted for in my first election. These issues include widespread poverty, subpar living wages, immigration and and immigrant rights, systemic racism, and especially affordable healthcare, affordable education, the climate crisis and women’s reproductive rights.

I believe every American should have access to affordable healthcare, especially in Philadelphia, the country’s biggest and poorest city. Healthcare continues to be a big concern for Americans and pre-existing conditions make it difficult for many to have access to health insurance which is simply unfair. People shouldn’t be denied the right to live and live healthily simply because they can’t afford to.

Another issue that matters to me is women’s health and reproductive rights, including everything from access to a safe and legal abortion to birth control to basic services. Women’s rights means giving them the right to choose their own path, no matter what it is. It is important that all women have the option to choose what they want to happen with their own body. It is important that we have true women’s autonomy.

While doing research, I also looked for representatives that can acknowledge the science behind climate change and how it will affect our future. The climate crisis is affecting the world’s agriculture and natural habitats. Animals that are vital to our ecosystem are going extinct. The science is not to be overlooked and the evidence cannot be ignored. I voted for the person who I felt can help with coming up with the solutions to combat it.

All Americans should be able to have the option of obtaining higher education without worrying about taking on an immense amount of debt to earn a degree. A college education should never leave American students in thousands of dollars in debt. A college education should never leave American students paying federal student loans for over 15 years after securing their degree. Education is super important to me, especially because I am applying to colleges this year. I don’t want to be concerned about drowning in student debt for the next chapter of my life. Carrying student debt also has the ability to impact many aspects of your life after college. It can prevent you from buying a home and saving for retirement. I voted for the person who I believe could help Americans pursue an education without an enormous price tag attached to it.

Ultimately, I voted for my future and for the future of our city.

Make a plan. Make sure you are heard too.

Zipporah Mooney is a senior attending Philadelphia High School for Girls. She previously attended WHYY workshops and participated in the Youth Employment Summer Program in 2020.

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