SHERIDAN — While voting in Sheridan County opened almost three weeks ago, many area residents will wait until Nov. 3 to cast their ballots at polling places around the county.
The reasons for waiting vary from convenience to an inclination that more and more information about the candidates will become known in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
Among the more than 13,600 residents registered to vote in Sheridan County, first-time voters like Pyper Tiffany, 18, and Meg Hubert, 17, have utilized tools unique to their generation to track issues on many voters’ minds.
Hubert, for example, finds much of her news on social media, primarily Instagram.
“I have friends on the left and the right who share things there or I can see firsthand sources talking about being where things happen,” Hubert said. “It’s really accessible and if you do it smart, you can find reliable ways to get news.”
Tiffany said she also uses social media but uses it primarily to seek out candidates' accounts and posts. She’ll also spend time seeking out their websites or blogs. If she’s looking for information on local candidates, she said she turns to local news sources.
Both indicated they have confidence in their abilities to identify fake news and added they’ve often heard friends share information they later fact-checked and found to be false.
“You have to know your credible sources,” Tiffany said.
Part of their process is to recognize media bias and read multiple articles on the same topic. If outlets along the spectrum report similar information, Tiffany said, you can generally believe that to be fact, no matter what spin is put on it.
Some websites have focused on helping voters compare coverage from various news outlets. AllSides.com, for example, chooses topics and pulls articles representing the left, center and right biases with the aim of strengthening “our democratic republic by freeing people from their filter bubbles so they can better understand the world — and each other.”
Both Hubert and Tiffany participated in the AP U.S. Government class at Sheridan High School last year and said they may be more well-versed in issues important to them than some of their peers.
For Tiffany, for example, the future of the U.S. Supreme Court weighs on her as she considers casting her vote in November. Tiffany noted the impact the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on the country and said she’s concerned about which candidate will fill her spot.
“I definitely think they should wait until after the election to go through with appointing a new justice,” Tiffany said. “But I also think both candidates (for president) should mention who they plan to appoint.”
Hubert, on the other hand, pointed to immigration issues and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as top concerns.
“Usually (candidates) just say how they would act in a really scary time, but in this case we actually got to see it,” Hubert said.
Hubert admitted she’s not as well-versed about local candidates but said she planned to learn more before Election Day.
The two teens won’t be the only first-time voters heading to the polls next month. The trend regarding low voter turnout among young adults has shifted. Voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds increased from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group.
Voter turnout for those between the ages of 30 and 44 also increased from 36% to 49% between 2014 and 2018, according to U.S. Census reports.
Hubert and Tiffany acknowledged because of their involvement in classes like AP U.S. Government and We the People programs, they are likely more knowledgeable on some topics compared to their peers. When it comes to talking about political issues, Hubert said she finds more value in conversations with adults than her peers.
“I will definitely say it’s almost harder to talk to people my own age because many aren’t as informed,” Hubert said. “Some of them you’ll try to talk to and you’ll try to show them resources, not to convince them but to just talk, and they don’t want that. They say it doesn’t apply to them yet.
“But you become 18 way sooner than you think you will,” she continued.
She also encouraged adults to discuss issues with younger generations.
“Talk about voting, what they believe and what they’ve heard,” Hubert said. “It’s almost impossible to avoid the things that are happening — especially on social media — so ask what they are seeing and hearing so you can help offer different points of view or encourage engagement. Let them start to build their own opinions.
“So often young people aren’t even asked what they think, so just having that conversation and wanting to know is really important,” Hubert concluded.
In an effort to foster engagement and encourage more young people to vote, the National Honor Society at Sheridan High School will host a session Oct. 13 at noon aimed at helping 18-year-olds and staff members register to vote.