Inside The Life Of A West Kentucky First-Time Voter
An average Tuesday for 18 year-old James Frazier starts at about 7 a.m. with a part-time job at a local law firm. Then, it’s time for school. First is a psychology class. His teacher just returned from maternity leave.
“We had a substitute for the first nine weeks, so it was a teach yourself kind of thing,” Frazier said. “Most people got about 80s on tests, so it was fun to watch the panic. And torture. On their faces.”
Frazier is first and foremost a student. But he’s also a defensive tackle on the football team, senior fundraising chair of the speech team, and a first-time voter.
“To be honest, I kind of feel a little bit nervous in all honesty,” Frazier said. “Because politics has been kind of the thing I've always heard and seen and kind of spectated, but now I'm actually going to be an active participant. So very much different perspective, you got to look at it.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reports between 2014 and 2018, voter turnout among 18 to 29 year-olds had the largest increase for any age group. And the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization National Conference on Citizenship surveyed 1,400 young adults in 2018 about the importance of democracy. Only 39 percent said democracy is “absolutely important.” Frazier, who’s a registered Republican, is a part of that minority.
“Democracy is all about putting your voice out there,” Frazier said. “And knowing you have equal representation when you do and that you're not just some side piece when it comes to your own government and where you live.”
Frazier said he independently chose to be a Republican because he saw the party as a “lesser of two evils.” Frazier said he believes voters should look at a candidate’s track record and not just the party. Some states including California have considered lowering the voting age in local elections to engage younger voters in politics. But Frazier thinks the current voting age is “perfect”.
“The minute you might have the possibility to fight for your country, whether you want to or not, is the minute you should be able to have a voice in that government,” Frazier said. “It's what we did during Vietnam. And I think it's a perfect model to go by.”
Voting advocates during the Vietnam War argued people old enough to be drafted into service at 18-years-old should also be able to vote. So, states approved a constitutional amendment in 1971 to lower the voting age.
We get on the topic of this fall’s election -- specifically the governor's race between Democratic candidate Attorney General Andy Beshear and Republican candidate Governor Matt Bevin. A big part of Beshear’s campaign has been to rally support from teachers by pointing to Bevin’s past inflammatory words against educators. And Frazier said Bevin hasn’t dealt well with teachers. But Frazier also said he doesn’t think Beshear will make a large effort to help teachers either.
“He might try and quote unquote, try to pass a bill for raising the pension,” Frazier said. “However, I think it's just going to get shot down. He's not going to really care and so that way in the next election, you can say hey, look, I tried.”
Frazier said he’s keeping who he’s voting for between Bevin and Beshear to himself. He doesn’t want people to automatically assume that because he’s a Republican he’ll vote for Bevin. And it may be his first election, but he has other things to worry about in the meantime -- like football practice.
“Well usually I’m sore from a football game,” Frazier said. “So, stretching and not pulling a muscle is a win.”
Polls throughout Kentucky close at 6 p.m. local time.
Liam Niemeyer contributed to this story.