Wednesday, 28 October 2020 21:34

VOICES HEARD: Current, former Richmond athletes cast first ballot as younger voter numbers surge 

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ROCKINGHAM — When the last presidential election was held in 2016, students in the current senior class at Richmond Senior High School, and those of last year’s class, were a quarter of the way through their eighth grade and ninth grade years, respectively.

Although they may have been aware of the election, for many it was nothing more than something that was talked about, debated and discussed by the adults and eligible voters around them. 

But the 2020 election is different for these students, who are now young adults, and it’s a time that’s seeing an overwhelming and historic number of young voters take to the polls to have their voices heard.

As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are in the final week ahead of this year’s presidential election on Nov. 3, more and more younger voters are taking to the ballot box.

According to an Oct. 26 report by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, also known as CIRCLE, a total of 331,900 votes have been made by North Carolina voters in the 18-29 age range.

By comparison, which was marked 11 days before both the Nov. 3 election and the election four years ago, the 2016 election saw just 88,600 votes recorded. The CIRCLE report, which was produced by the nonpartisan research center, included absentee ballots and early voting polls in its findings.

The report noted the data “continues to highlight that youth interest and participation in this year’s election is at historic levels.”

One of those early voters was Georgia Grace Anderson, a senior volleyball player for the Lady Raiders. She cast her vote on Oct. 23 at the Cooperative Extension Office in Rockingham.

“I think it’s important for the younger generation to vote because our voices matter just as much as someone who has been voting for years,” Anderson explained. “It is our civic responsibility to vote, so it is important that we start voting as soon as we are eligible. Our generation is the future of this country, so it is key for us to start good voting habits now.”

Anderson was in middle school during the 2016 election, but said she has been registered to vote since she got her driver’s license in 2018. Doing her own research on the candidates at the national, state and local levels, Anderson said that allowed her to form her own personal opinions.

“Not many people know this but I am a history nerd deep down, so I was really excited,” she laughed. “I used to go to the polls with my parents, and always looked forward to the day when I would get my own ballot. Once I turned in my ballot, I felt like I was actually an adult and that my vote counted.”

Richmond’s athletic director Rob Ransom shared his enthusiasm in seeing current and former members of the Raider and Lady Raider athletic community do their part in the election.

“Part of the athletic program is to help produce well-rounded citizens,” Ransom said. “Election time is an exciting time in our country. I'm sure many of our athletes are excited to participate as voters for the first time. The athletic department encourages everyone to get out and vote.”

Former Richmond Raider football player Dereck Barringer, who is a freshman defensive back at Barton College, has also spent a lot of time the last several weeks finalizing his decision on who to vote for. He plans to head to the polls later this week before the early voting period ends.

“Seeing everybody who is older than me vote is what motivated me,” Barringer explained of why he’s exercising his right. “And seeing how serious this election is made me want my voice to be heard, too.”

Of the increased numbers of younger voters prior to the 2020 election, Barringer said “it shows that we’re mature and that my generation wants what’s best for our future.”

Bradford Pittman, one of Anderson’s classmates in this year’s graduating class and a multi-sport athlete, also took advantage of North Carolina’s early voting period. He visited Browder Park in Rockingham on Oct. 20 and was pleased with the experience, especially among growing concerns regarding the coronavirus.

“Voting was surprisingly quick and easy,” Pittman explained. “The staff was nice and the whole thing only took a few minutes. Social distancing was well maintained so I had no concerns about the coronavirus while I was there.

“Growing up, I was always fascinated by voting,” the soccer and tennis player said. “So naturally I was excited to be able to vote, especially during these times of political unrest. I knew voting now was my responsibility as a U.S. citizen.”

CIRCLE reported that North Carolina’s 18-29 age group represents a higher percentage than the national average. In 2016, the younger voter demographic accounted for 45 percent of North Carolina’s vote, compared to 38 percent across the country. 

North Carolina is also considered to be one of “14 key states” in the CIRCLE report, joining other notorious key states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The total number of young voters who have already voted ranks third in the country, just behind Texas (753,600 votes) and Florida (433,700 votes), respectively.

Many other former and current Richmond student-athletes, as well as students from the classes of 2020 and 2021, confirmed with ROSports that they plan to vote in the upcoming election. 

Early voting in North Carolina ends on Saturday, Oct. 31. There are four places in Richmond County that are early voting polling locations: Browder Park, the Cooperative Extension Office, the First United Methodist Church in Ellerbe and the First Presbyterian Church in Hamlet.

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 October 2020 21:38
Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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