Texas millennials tune in to debate, preparing for first presidential vote

Jade Frederickson still isn’t sure who will get her vote in this year’s race for the White House.

Even after watching the third and final presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night, she’s still torn, although she’s narrowed down her choices.

Her vote likely will either go to Trump or Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

“I still have to do my own research,” said Frederickson, a 19-year-old TCU sophomore from Minnesota who will cast her first vote in a presidential election Nov. 8. “But I definitely think watching the debate was worthwhile. I’m learning a lot.”

Frederickson was among the dozens of millennials gathered in TCU’s Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom on Wednesday night to watch the last presidential debate this year.

Even though many said their minds were made up, or nearly made up, students watched the debate intently.

Several stayed busy on their laptops and smartphones, keeping an eye on fact checks being done on candidate statements during the debate. Some stopped in briefly to take selfies with the debate on large screens behind them.

At times, many in the room chuckled, particularly when both candidates talked over the moderator.

Laughter and gasps could be heard throughout the room at various points in the debate, including when Trump, while talking about immigration, said that there are some “bad hombres here” who need to be moved out of the country, and when Clinton said that Russia President Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win the election so there will be a “puppet” in the White House.

For some, this was the first presidential debate they’ve seen. Others watched all three this fall.

Many said they were frustrated with this election and Kelsey Ritchie, a 21-year-old senior from Tulsa, said it would be easy to not vote this year.

But that wouldn’t be the right thing to do, she said.

“My main issue is that I don’t think any of the candidates for president are deserving of that title,” said Ritchie, the student government vice president of external affairs at TCU. “But nothing is going to change if nothing changes. … There is nothing good that can come out of me sitting at home and not exercising my right to vote.”

Early voting runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4.

For or against?

Several TCU students said this is not an election where they are voting “for” someone as much as they are voting “against” someone.

“I will not be voting for Donald Trump,” Ritchie said. “I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. I looked at third-party candidates for a long time.

“But my devotion is to making sure Donald Trump doesn’t get the White House,” she said, adding that a bonus to voting for Clinton is that “it might motivate the desire in women to be involved in politics.”

Sean Kelly has a different opinion.

The 20-year-old TCU junior from Fort Worth said he has been watching the debates to help him make up his mind.

But right now he is “heavily leaning” toward supporting Trump.

“I do like that he’s more conservative and we need more conservative policies,” he said. “I’m not the hugest fan of Hillary Clinton.”

On Wednesday night, he was watching to see if Trump’s demeanor changed from the way it was in the first two debates. And he was hoping to see — from both candidates — more answers and fewer political attacks.

“It’s better than the first one, but there is still room for improvement,” he said. “Their behavior has gotten more intense.”

‘First time to vote’

Jesse James Torres, a 21-year-old TCU junior from Burleson, came to the last debate mostly committed to voting for Clinton. He said there’s some wiggle room in his decision, since he considers himself “75 percent Democrat and 25 percent Republican.”

He’s ready to vote.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s my first time to vote in a presidential election. Like the Barack Obama election, this is one that can change history.

“We have two of the most polarizing politicians right now,” he said. “It’s important I vote. Anything can happen in the next four years.”

Frederickson said both Clinton and Trump appeared poised during the debate, which she, overall, found “pretty entertaining.”

And even though she remained undecided at the end of the night, she got what she wanted.

“I wanted to gain some insight,” she said. “I will vote.”

Anna M. Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Election Information

Election Day will be here before you know it. To see a sample ballot, go to the Tarrant County elections website. To ask for a ballot by mail, call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 28. For more information about candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, go to the Star-Telegram website to read the online Voters Guide.

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