Clare, a 30 year old Caucasian bartender and freelance event organizer from Berlin, New Hampshire, currently living in Eugene, Oregon, USA
Q: Did you vote in the presidential 2016 election? If so what was your experience like?
CLARE: Yes, the process went smoothly, my emotional state was a little strained. My polling place was at a school fairly close to my home/work, and I was able to go in to vote that morning before work. I had already registered online so all I had to do was walk in, ‘check in’ with my name and address (which they matched to a master list of registered voters for that polling place) and then I went into the booth to fill out my ballot.
The emotional strain was simply because of the candidates. I generally vote Democrat and although I didn’t really care for Hilary Clinton, I was really worried that Donald Trump would win so I voted for Clinton anyway.
Clare after a hike with Eugene behind her
Q: Have you registered to vote? If so, what was the process like and is there anything about the process you wish were different?
CLARE: Yes, I have since moved to a new state (Oregon) so the process was different for me. Oregon has allowed mail-in voting since the early 2000s. Because I am a new resident, I have to go through an additional step to register. I went online (www.vote.org) to complete and print a registration form. That has to be mailed in to our local voting office. They review, verify my information is correct, and then they will mail me a ballot. I can fill out my ballot and then either: mail it in, OR drop it in a sercure ballot box. The ballot box is my preferred option. It looks similar to a mail drop, but clearly marked as an official ballot box, and is heavily built and locked to ensure security. I wish the overall process were a bit simpler but I think COVID may be playing a role in that. I can see where there would be potential for barriers for some people. Not everyone has access to a home computer, printer, or even internet. Accessing the public computers at the library is more difficult right now (COVID is still rampant in the US) so that may make this process more difficult.
Otherwise, I’m actually really pleased with the process in Oregon. Many states do not allow mail-in voting with ease, and that creates more barriers to voting. Everyone should have the ability to vote.
Q: Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? Why (not)? How?
CLARE: Yes and no. I generally don’t dicusss much with my parents. Although reasonably sensible people, we do have serious generational gaps that make it hard for them to truly understand and relate. I do speak pretty openly with many close friends, and it’s not really a special conversation. With many friends, it’s simply a part of life and discussion, no different than any other topic.
Q: What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? Why is this important to you?
CLARE: Policies, and then the person. I hate that this is the situation, but I can hardly rely on our politicians to be decent humans anymore. Thus, I vote on policy first. Human rights issues, women’s rights, immigration, environment, and economy are the major points I look at when choosing a candidate. Generally, I fall into the Democratic party.
The ‘why’ is simply because everyone deserves a good quality of life. We all deserve fair wages, access to healthcare, and access to education.
Q: How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S?
CLARE: It’s a disaster. The parties and people are so divided in such an extreme way, and it’s not getting any better. The idea of individualism is out of control. The ‘blame game’ is happening from both sides and just creating even more division, hatred, and anger. My observation/fear is that many people are behaving in such an extreme way that they may act or even vote out of spite, rather than in a way that’s truly beneficial for the population as a whole.
Q: What campaign issue(s) do you feel strongly about? Why? How do you hope will the election influence it?
CLARE: Human rights, first. For me that includes women’s rights (plentiful access to healthcare, contraceptives, empowerment to stand up to sexual abusers) and racial issues. Immigration is also a big one that I feel is closely linked to human rights. I believe diversity makes us better as a country and as individuals. People should be able to follow their dreams and opportunities, to leave behind war, or pursue higher education without facing the hurdles and discrimination that often comes with immigration in the US.
Education. This is a big one. Teachers are grossly underpaid and overworked in the US. Their classrooms are far too large, most of education is based on test scores with no regard to individual successes. Schools receive unfair funding (from property taxes, which means rich neighbourhoods get more funding which equals better education. It’s one of many ways this country keeps poor people poor.). And then beyond that, higher education is hugely expensive with zero promise for return. I am a good example. It took me ten years to finish a college degree, because of the prohibitive cost. I am still a bartender, because I simply make more money doing that than I would in my field of study, and since I have school debt to repay, I can’t afford a pay cut. I could go on endlessly about the issue of education in the US. The reality is: education is the key to everything. Education gives people a chance, a way out or up, and a wider view of the world. Unfortunately, the system in this country is built in a way to ensure certain people never reap those benefits. Beyond those two issues, I look at things like healthcare-for-all, environmental and economic issues, world policy, etc
Q: Are there any campaign issues or topics that are especially important in your state or community? Any other decisions that will be on the ballot in your state?
CLARE: I can, tell you the two major issues that I will be voting on next time around. Oregon, and especially the city I live in (Eugene) has some of the largest numbers of homelessness in the entire country. Taxes here are very high, and yet somehow the city/state never seem to have the funding to provide support/assistance to these people. My next vote will be largely focused on the candidate who has a plan to truly assist in getting people off the streets, into housing, jobs, and a new start. My second major local issue will be environmental. Oregon is currently experiencing the worst wildfires in its known history. The obvious points to climate change, and the fact that the world is only getting hotter and drier which makes the fires worse.
Q: What is your opinion in regard to the current protests (you may choose which protests you want to expand on)?
CLARE: I participated in the protests. I marched, I helped provide food and medical supplies, and I stayed up all night in a neighborhood watch when we heard the KKK was in town. I am in full, 100% support of the riots and the Black Lives Matter movement. We are living in a time when police are able to commit crimes in plain sight and face no reprecussions. We are in a time when angry white men can carry guns to the capitol because they’re mad they have to wear a mask, but a black man can’t even go for a run (RIP Ahmaud) (For more information about Ahmaud please visit: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52623151 ). The late, great, MLK Jr. said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The US is a country built on racism. It is still a country that is (sadly) deepy divided on race-related issues, which means many voices are still being silenced. I will gladly protest every day until these voices are heard and supported.
Q: Which media do you use to inform yourself about the election?
CLARE: NYTimes and NPR are my main major networks. I subscribe to their published works, as well as following their social media outlets. I do try to occasionally check other popular sources to remain as well informed as possible, while trying to avoid too much of a bias.
Q: How do you feel about the news coverage of the U.S. elections?
CLARE: This one is tough. Social media is definitely changing the way news is shared. There seems to be a lot more extremist reporting in this election, even more so than in 2016. The far right vs. the far left. It all feels very sensationalized, but, then again, the current President came out of reality TV so I guess its fitting. Overall I feel that it can be hard to find good, authentic journalistic reporting regarding this election.
Q: What do you feel foreigners don’t understand about the U.S. election?
CLARE: Many of us want better. Many of us do not support the electoral college, or even the state many of us are in. Many, many Americans are struggling and want better for their country. And, those who don’t, are often a product of a failed system (it all comes back to education) and truly don’t know any better.
Q: What would you recommend a German student analyze in your state?
CLARE: Oregon was one of the first states to allow mail-in voting so I would recommend looking into that subject. Pres. Trump has tried to make a big case for voter fraud but the historal evidence shows otherwise.