Youth proud to vote

Youthful voters crowd around the Ailinglaplap Atoll voting station at Delap Elementary School to get their ballots on Election Day November 20. Photo: Giff Johnson.

WILMER JOEL

Election day in the Marshall Islands saw a varied turnout of voters. From seven in the morning until seven in the evening on Monday, young and old Marshallese voters waited at the polling stations.

Throughout the day, there were fluctuations in voter turnout, but some polling stations, such as Maloelap, Namo, Aur, Arno, and Aelonlaplap, saw a consistent influx of voters. Most poll observers, from Delap to Rita, who spoke with the Journal, said that there were more voters in the morning than in the evening. The Journal conducted interviews with voters who had completed casting their ballots or were waiting in line.

Partick Chen, an Arno voter, expressed his strong belief in democracy by saying, “I wanted to vote for candidates who can engage and make change in the community.” This was the ninth time he had voted during national elections.

Mejit voter Ramona Levy-Strauss stated that it was either her fifth or sixth time to vote. “Now it is time to vote to make a change,” she said. “For a better and blessed future, it is time to return the favor to the people. Everyone must have equal access to opportunities. Ask not what your government can do for you but what you can do to partner up with them to make a change.”

A four-time voter from Maloelap, Benji Benjamin, said he voted to uphold the constitution and to select leaders who would improve both his island and the country. He continued by saying it was worthwhile to wait in line while standing in the heat. “I am voting for candidates who will work to make life easier for our people,” he said. “The type of candidates who will be the voice of the people, advocates, and effective leaders who can get things done and bring about developments.”

The young Marshallese voting for the first time on election day had a distinct viewpoint. Nineteen-year-old CMI student Fred Alfred cast his vote for Ailuk and reported feeling relieved. “I am very happy to have contributed to selecting candidates that can make a difference on the island,” he said. “I felt scared at first because I have relatives going against each other, but I made an oath that I had to use my right.”

A voter from Maloelap, Diane Hermios, 21, said she went to the polls to support the changes she wanted to see made to her island. “I voted and did my part to see the improvement being made on my island,” she declared. “I voted for candidates who can speak volumes with their words and actions.”

Diane and Fred stressed the importance of voting and expressing their Marshallese pride to young people of their age who have not yet been able to vote. “Other countries (that live under dictatorship regimes) don’t have the freedom to vote; we do, and we need to make use of it,” said Alfred. “It is important that you do your part for the betterment of these islands,” said Hermios.

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