Young New Yorkers responded to Obama’s calls for hope and change by trooping to the polls to cast their first votes. We asked some of them to tell us their stories and what they expect from the new administration.
• Eighteen-year-old Cleo Crooks had a lot to do on Election Day. After G.E.D. and job-training classes, she had to pick up her niece from school, possibly take a shift as a cashier at the staffing agency where she works, and still find the time to vote.
A first-time voter from East New York, Crooks said she planned to vote for Obama, who she hoped would bring about the change he has promised. In particular, she hoped that Obama would improve the dismal housing situation in New York and throughout the country. Her mother, for whom Crooks is the primary provider, was evicted from her apartment and now lives in a shelter.
“We have people who live on the street,” she said. “I know people who are promised an apartment [but] it doesn’t happen.”
Despite her troubles, she was excited about Election Day.
“I couldn’t wait until the day I could vote,” she said. “I registered on my birthday and my card just arrived a few days ago. I made it in time.”
“I have a very hard time thinking anyone will change anything, no matter who gets into office,” Zirschky said. “I think they will feed from the same trough as the others . . . the system is corrupt and checks and balances need to be fixed.”
Zirschky, a photographer and first-time voter, moved to New York two months ago after traveling abroad in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and North Africa. “The Middle East is sick and tired of us,” Zirschky said. “Good people want to love and raise their families just like we do.”
-Lindsay A. Lazarski
• Valerie Suter, a 25-year-old freelance writer, hesitated to say for whom she voted. But eventually she said she chose Obama. He can “think rationally and be thoughtful about important decisions, rather than (John) McCain, who seems really impetuous and erratic,” she said.
This was her first election. “I was out of the country for college and I didn’t get my absentee ballot,” she said. But she was determined to vote this year. “I’ve been waiting to participate in democracy.”
• Wearing a do-rag and looking sullen, Paul Crews explained why he decided to vote for the first time.
“The fact that I was crying about a lot of stuff that was happening and I wasn’t registered to vote,” he said. “So I realized that I can’t complain about it if I’m not doing anything.”
Crews, 21 and unemployed, voted for Obama because he said he trusts him.
“He listens to us out here,” he said, “unlike McCain, who only cares about making Barack Obama look stupid.”
• Orlando Isaac is a Bronx native, the child of Filipino immigrants and a McCain voter.
The 20-year-old nursing student said his family inspired his vote for the GOP ticket. “My parents are Republican,” Isaac said. “They’re interested in what the McCain administration is going to do.”
He said McCain was better equipped for the presidency, especially on foreign policy and national security. “Obama never did anything with war, and he (has) never (been) affiliated with anything with military stuff. McCain has been in the Navy, he has seen how the war affects everybody.”
But it might not be a tragedy if the other side takes the election, Isaac said. “If Obama wins, we’ll see if his promises will keep up. You don’t know what’s going to happen until they do their job, so hopefully they do their job properly.”
• Ashley Crisostomo got the chance to do something on her 21st birthday most college students don’t: she voted for president for the first time.
Originally from Minnesota, Crisostomo now lives near Fordham University, which she attends. Instead of sending an absentee ballot back to her home state, she registered to vote in New York and celebrated her 21st by pulling that lever for Obama.
“I think this country has kind of skewed (values),” Crisostomo said. “Too much about money, too much about your own self. But I want change, I want more emphasis on education and health.”
She said she believes Obama has the most to offer students.
“I just read a few weeks ago that Obama was like, ‘If you donate 100 hours of volunteer work you get $4,000 off your college education,’ and that’s a change that is so personal to people our age,” she said. “That’s the values we need instead of, like, lowering taxes.”
“I want to vote for Obama,” she said. “But it’s just breaking my parents’ hearts if I don’t vote McCain. You know, my dad’s worked so hard and now his money’s just gonna trickle away.”
Badavas moved to Manhattan two months ago from Boston, and said the pressure from her family back home was making her first voting experience difficult.
Her father is a Republican who might face a tax increase under Obama’s plan. Her mother, a registered Democrat turned off by Obama’s youth and inexperience, also decided to vote Republican.
Badavas said Obama’s calls for change appealed to her, especially economic change. She works two jobs—as a hostess in a restaurant and as a cashier in a clothing store—and to her, Obama’s tax plan makes sense.
“Personally, you know, I’m in the smaller tax bracket,” she said. “It would truly help me.”
• The pair came to the polls together to vote for Obama.
Does their candidate mean what he says? “We’re just going to see once he actually gets into office,” said Von Tucker, a 22-year-old Radio Shack employee.
Britney Thornton was more confident.
“School – he’s going to help pay for school. So I really want that because I want to go to college and… get paid for it. And social security and lowering taxes, all that. He should be for gay marriage but I mean O.K.” She laughed. “Whatever.”