These are the faces of first-time voters

Teslyn Nicole De Leon, 18, felt an “absolute thrill” while casting her ballot early in Texas recently. But what made the moment even more memorable for this first-time voter, she shared on Instagram and elaborated on for Yahoo Life, was that she went with another, very special, first-time voter: her grandmother. 

“My grandmother legally immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines with two suitcases and $20 and built the family that I so proudly love,” De Leon, a student at the University of Texas, captioned the recent photo of them together. “I can’t thank her enough for the life she has given me.”

While De Leon was motivated to hit the polls by her “civic duty” and “incredulous excitement” over finally being of voting age, her grandmother, she tells Yahoo Life, “hadn’t voted because she had never felt knowledgeable enough to vote, because she hadn’t spoken much English and because she is a native Filipina. This year, she felt compelled by her extensive knowledge… She knew exactly how she felt and knew it was time to vote.”

De Leon and her grandmother are far from alone: With nearly half of U.S. states offering early voting in the 2020 general election, social media has been bursting with images of people on long lines and at ballot boxes for at least a week now. And many of the posts are from first-time voters, casting their ballots at what looks to be very high rates — and according, at least, to TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, which cites evidence of a “first-time voter surge.”

Instagram’s “first-time voter” hashtag brings up an endless scroll of proud voters, of all ages, some posted by parents or children or spouses of the first-timers.

“My mom immigrated from Colombia in the early ‘80s when she was 15. She became a citizen at that time, but throughout the years, she never felt compelled to vote,” Libia Marqueza Castro tells Yahoo Life about her Instagram post of her mom as a first-time voter. “Politics were pretty far removed from her lived experience. This year, however, she’s been paying extra attention because of COVID (she’s an elementary school teacher) … and one day she texted me that she had enough of the tontería (ridiculousness)… she feels like she’s actually doing something to change what she’s seeing unfold on TV, especially since she lives in Texas.”

“I always thought it was an insignificant process, but after using my rights to vote, I feel so empowered, motivated, and beyond blessed. I know, corny right,” wrote Georgia teen Fadlyna about going to vote for the first time with her mother, a breast cancer survivor. “But it does feel like you made an impact when you do something you are only able to do when you grow up.”

A woman who says she immigrated from Jamaica posted about voting for the first time since becoming a naturalized citizen in 2014. “I honestly was nervous about it and putting it off,” she shared. “I really didn’t know what I was doing but I read the instructions and followed the directions. I don’t know if my choices [were] right or wrong but I was just proud that I participated.” 

Reggie Gipson, aka DJ Thrillz, a YouTube personality with 1.23K subscribers, shared, “Never Really Cared For Politics, Until This Election! First Time Voting! Go Vote! 

As part of a series on first-time voters in Virginia, the non-profit Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism (VCIJ) featured Joseph Kilburne, 18, who said, “I think voting is important because there are a lot of people that can’t vote,” as well as TeQuanna McLendon, 24, who said, “It’s a very important election this time and people fought for our right to vote so I probably should.” Ayana Tillery, 19, told the VCIJ, “If you care about what’s going on in the world, then that should be enough for you to vote.

In Minnesota, Brenda Valerro noted, “GUYS I FEEL LIKE A CHILD I’M SO HAPPY,” alongside a photo of herself holding her red “I Voted” stickers, while Madison, of California, and Penny, of Queens, N.Y., by way of Texas and Taiwan, also shared proud, sticker-boasting moments.

And in New York City, model Daniella Salvi summed up her first trip to the polls by sharing a link to I Will Vote and by noting, simply, “Voting is hot.”

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