By: Andy Callaway
In recent months, the presidential election has taken over headlines everywhere. From major news outlets to internet memes, the race for the White House is at the center of public attention.
As Democrats and Republicans continue to battle it out for their party’s respective nominations all over the country, all the election season action came through Georgia recently when our state held its “Super Tuesday” primary on March 1.
This time around however, Cougar Nation let its growl be heard as many Newnan High seniors took part in democracy and brought their concerns to the ballot box for the first time.
For a group of graduating seniors grappling with the real world realities of college and post high school plans, this is yet another important right of passage, and an opportunity to help shape the future of our country in one of the most exciting presidential elections in history.
Cougars who did let their voice be heard in this election, by and large had good things to say about the voting process itself. In Georgia, the process is streamlined and according to Newnan Senior Travis Greene, “surprisingly efficient.”
When entering the polling place, voters stop at a table where they complete a signature form with their name and address.
After showing a Driver’s license or approved ID, the poll worker will verify that the voter can proceed to the next table, where they receive an electronic key card. After this, voters enter the voting booth, insert the keycard and after the ballot appears on screen, cast a vote.
Newnan seniors were also complimentary of the voting registration process. With on site registration at polling places and with automatic registration when upgrading to a Class C license, taking part in the process was made very easy.
As one might imagine, the top issue many graduating seniors kept it mind when casting their ballot was college affordability. Along with increasingly competitive admissions, students entering college right now are facing high prices and often times, overbearing debt after graduating.
While this issue has a clear and direct impact on American families and students alike, it has noticeably taken a back seat to other topics of discussion in political debates.
“I wish it was talked about more, but I voted based on what I had heard from the candidates so far,” said Greene.
Another issue that first time voters reported being very concerned about in anticipation of election day was the economy.
Preparing for the future just doesn’t mean getting ready for college, but also getting ready for a career. And many first time voters, raised in the years of the Great Recession, are concerned about economic opportunity after graduating.
There’s perhaps no better issue on the minds of voters and the candidates alike that displays that broad range of opinions and proposed solutions.
A growing concern among people entering the workforce, both out of high school and college, isn’t just the availability of jobs themselves, but wages.
Despite significant economic recovery and a falling unemployment rate, wage growth, a good indicator of an economy’s health, has been stagnant.
It’s in this economic climate, that first time voters keep opportunity in mind at the ballot box.
“The economy is doing much better than it was, but it’s still a bit uncertain out there, and I want to be able to find work after graduating college,” says Ellie Waters, a Senior who will be attending the University of Georgia next fall.
One more issue that has also been in the national spotlight, national security, rests on the minds of our nation’s first time voters as well.
What makes this understandable, and all the more intriguing, is the fact that a generation of kids who have lived nearly their entire lives in the post 9-11 era is now voting for the first time.
“After growing up hearing about the sacrifices our men and women in uniform made, and knowing the threat is still there, national security played a big role in my choice in candidate,” said Newnan Senior Eli Moore.
They want a strong, responsible leader that is willing to keep the nation safe and use good judgement in foreign affairs.
It’s clear that while the economy and college affordability, which play a big role in day to day life, were big concerns, first time voters are also voting with national security in mind.
In the whirlwind of one the most exciting election seasons in our nation’s history, behind all the headlines and drama, are engaged citizens that are taking part in the democratic process.
From making big decisions abroad to solving the pressing issues at home, the Class of 2016 is beginning to help shape its world. For many graduating Cougars, this started at the ballot box, right here in Newnan, GA.