First-time voters excited about 2020 presidential election

Posted at 9:04 AM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 12:04:28-04

They're motivated, they're well-researched, and they're determined to make sure their voices are heard. First-time voters are expected to come out in record numbers this year -- and many of them are young voters, barely out of high school, but ready to tackle big issues.

We talked with one Arizona State University student who's keeping her family's legacy going.

"It's definitely taken some getting used to, but overall, I feel like it will be worth it in the end," explains Sophea Hernandez, an ASU freshman who grew up in Gilbert.

Hernandez is managing her full-time course load at ASU and is about to add another responsibility, and it's something she's waited her whole life for: her right to vote.

"It will be cool that my opinion is being heard. And it's my first time actually being able to take advantage of living in a democracy where I am able to do that."

Hernandez is just one of the millions of first-time voters across the country. According to Pew Research, 10% of all eligible voters belong to "Gen Z," people between the ages of 18-23.

"And it's our civic duty. Like I said, we have the opportunity to vote, so why not take advantage of that? Even if you're young and you think it won't affect you, do it for the people it will affect."

For Hernandez, voting is a family affair - her grandmother, Delia Saldate, has volunteered with campaigns for the last 40 years.

"I was always kind of the worker bee, but that was the most fun, you get out there and you canvas in the different areas and you do voter registration," Saldate explains.

Even if it's a simple conversation in the car, Saldate says politics are always top of mind.

"I called her mom. 'Did Sophea register to vote?' She said, 'Oh yeah, she did.' I'm good. I'm happy. The fact she did that on her own makes me very proud!"

Saldate, who has worked for Chicanos Por La Causa for more than a decade, has accumulated quite a bit of memorabilia over the years but says it's about more than just the memories -- for her, it's all about the impact, especially as a Hispanic voter. According to Pew Research, nearly one in four eligible voters in Arizona are Hispanic.

"We may be a minority, but we will be a majority in the near future. We are a growing population. We have a lot of youth...So I think it is very important that the Latino vote gets counted. That the Latino get out and to vote. That the Latino get out and make their voice their heard. It's just important."

For Saldate, old photos and newspapers tell a story, and more importantly, teach a lesson about how far we've truly come.

"You also have to remember that there was a time when the ballot booth only allowed one gender, one we all have that opportunity. It doesn't matter what color you are, what religion you practice, what sexual orientation you may have. You have the right. If you're a woman, you can go vote now. Why aren't you doing it? It's important because those people are going to represent me."

For Hernandez, it's not only about following in her family's footsteps, but also forging her own path in her first election.

"To be able to be involved like my Nana is, it's definitely an inspiration," Hernandez explains. "And being able to see all the history is definitely inspiring to know I have the opportunity to do all of this now."