Making their vote count

As the newly postponed Georgia primary election on May 19 approaches, the Georgia State community is gathering information and evaluating their own beliefs in preparation to cast their votes.

Many underclassmen, such as dual enrollment student Rachel Bloom, will be voting for the first time.

“Political involvement is important in my family,” Bloom said. “Even as a young child, my parents would bring me with them when they voted to teach me how important civic duty was. Now that I can vote, it feels really special and empowering. As a young person, it is easy to feel as though your voice is not important or is overlooked, but the ability to vote affirms that my voice matters.”

However, for a majority of this year’s Georgia State voters, casting their ballot is not a new experience. 

“I’ve voted in every election since I’ve been able to,” Evan Malbrough, a senior public policy major, said. “I think voting is a necessary step in trying to change things but definitely not the only step. It’s kind of a tool in a toolbox. The most part of my work in college has been to try to expand democracy access as much as possible for young people.”

This upcoming primary will be Malbrough’s seventh time voting, including his first election, the 2016 presidential primary. Since then, however, his views on the act have changed.

“A lot of people vote based on their stake,” he said. “For example, when I was coming into college, I came in right at the height of the presidential election in 2016, but I think the stakes were different, so I think the things I took into consideration when voting are very different now that I’m a senior in college. Since I’ve learned about so many more issues, I’m more informed on why I vote and who I vote for.”

Malbrough is an active voting rights activist, and is a strong believer in informed voting.

“I think one of the biggest staunch questions is that people don’t know the difference between a presidential candidate suspending their campaign and a presidential candidate ending their campaign,” he said. “I think a person actually voted for a candidate that’s not actively running for president, and that vote [has] been cast. Information is so powerful in this era.”

However, not all political activists are as firm advocates for the act of casting one’s ballot.

“I am actually not a big proponent of voting,” Julia Kubala, a senior lecturer in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said. “I take Malcolm X’s comments, ‘By any means necessary’ to mean ‘By all means necessary,’ so I do think it’s important to vote, but I also am sympathetic to people who feel like voting in a broken system is not the best way to engage civically. I’m not sympathetic to people who do that and they are not active politically, but if people are active politically, it makes sense to me.”

Kubala has voted in every election since she turned 18.

“[My first time voting] was a long time ago,” she said. “I am of a weird contradiction in that I’m very cynical about the electoral process … but I still kind of get happy when I vote. There’s something about the feeling of feeling a part of a democracy, even if I don’t believe we actually live in a democracy. It feels good.”

She has often felt disappointed casting her vote, especially in a general election, for the purpose of voting out another candidate rather than voting for a candidate with whom she truly agrees.

“I feel like right now I’m voting to get [Republican incumbent Donald] Trump out,” Kubala said. “If [Sen. Bernie] Sanders were nominated, I would feel some excitement about voting. If it’s [former Vice President Joe] Biden, I will not feel excited about voting for him. It’ll be more a ‘damage control’ narrative, which is very familiar.”

While Kubala would be disappointed to vote for Biden, she has actively been in favor of both Sanders and Senator Elizbeth Warren, who dropped out last month, throughout this election cycle.

“I probably agree more with Sanders and like Warren better,” she said.

Malbrough is also a supporter of both Sanders and Warren.

“In 2016, I originally voted for Sanders,” he said. “The reason why I picked Warren above everybody else was because I liked her plans and things like that. It’s kind of sad because I do feel that … the party that always says, ‘We embrace people of all different backgrounds, sexualities, genders, and races,’ for some reason, always ends up [voting for] an old white person, except for Barack Obama.”

Malbrough thinks that because Warren is a woman, valid criticisms of her campaign were escalated into direct attacks on her character.

Malbrough will be casting his vote for Sanders in May, but in the event that Biden wins the Democratic nomination, he still intends to vote on the Democratic side in an attempt to prevent another four years of a Trump presidency, which may have lifelong consequences. 

“Donald Trump has major potential to be a very influential president, in my opinion, for the sole factor of having Supreme Court justices,” he said. “The thing about it is he [has] only replaced conservative justices, but the next two oldest justices are liberals. That’s when you start to really start changing the court.”

Malbrough’s fear is that the next two oldest Supreme Court justices, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburgh, both of whom were appointed by Democratic presidents, will step down during Trump’s potential second term. 

“If you look at the Supreme Court, it’s not that much different from the Supreme Court that upheld the ruling to legalize gay marriage,” he said. “If he ends up [serving] a full eight years, he’ll get two conservative Supreme Court justices, but he’ll also flip two liberal Supreme Court justices, and that has lifelong ramifications. That’s more powerful than anything else he could do because, then, the Trump era will outlive everything else.”

For this reason, Malbrough strongly urges his fellow Democrats to cast their votes in November, regardless of how they feel about the candidate.

“If I was advising Democrats, and if I was advising especially people from my generation who understandably won’t vote for Biden because of his past and his policies, Trump at most will only be president for four [more] years, but his Supreme Court justices will be serving until we’re 60,” he said.

With the stakes high, voters are worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the election. 

“I feel as though it could go one of two ways,” Bloom, who was able to cast her vote early, said. “Either people feel a sense of despair from the virus, which leads to a lack of caring for seeming inessentials such as voting to the point where people participate less, or people may feel as though voting gives them some sort of feeling of control in a time of great uncertainty.”

Either way, each voter is going into the primary election with heads high, ready to make their voice heard.