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What do young voters want from the next president?

The "youth vote," ages 18-29, turned out in record numbers this election. Amna Nawaz talks to two first-time voters about the political divide and their message to the next president.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally tonight: a short conversation with two first-time voters. One supported Vice President Biden, the other President Trump.

    What a time to be new to the electorate — Amna.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Thanks, Judy.

    In the run-up to the election, there were record numbers of young people registering and making plans to vote. An estimated 10 million young people voted.

    So, what was that experience like for first-time voters? And how do young people see the current debate over counting the votes, when America is so divided politically?

    I have got two first-time voters to help me explore all of these issues.

    Malick Mercier is a college student attending Ithaca College and currently living in Brooklyn. And Rebecca McKinney is a high school senior from Northern Virginia. She's a podcaster for her school's newspaper and a member of her school's debate team.

    Malick, I want to start with you.

    You guys voted in the middle of a pandemic, at a time when there's a lot of doubt being sown about the election process, and yet you still chose to participate. Why?

  • Malick Mercier:

    This election, specifically, was clearly so consequential, after especially watching what happened with the coronavirus pandemic, over 200,000 Americans dead. It's really sad.

    And I think that when we — I think our generation is really good about thinking about human life and thinking about what that means and how important that is.

    And so, for me, it was really just making sure that I chose a leader that I really believed could handle the things that we're going through as a nation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Rebecca, what about you? Why was it important for you to participate in this process?

  • Rebecca McKinney:

    I think it was really special for me to vote for the first time in this election, since it's the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote, which was just so, like, monumental for me.

    And I got a little sticker that had a little women's suffrage sticker on it that said I was a first-time voter, and it was really, really awesome just to be able to have this legacy that, after 100 — for the past 100 years that women have been able to vote, and that, for the first time, I got to vote on this anniversary was so huge for me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Malick, you and Rebecca were not alone. We should mention there was record young American turnout. Those are people aged 18 to 29 in several key battleground states.

    Does that surprise you, that that many more young people turned out?

  • Malick Mercier:

    It's not just that young people were voting in this election, but young people were organizing.

    Young people were working, whether it's with March On. They were doing Walk the Vote, different rallies to help, just watching all of that. Our generation is more than voting, and that's really awesome.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We talk all the time about how divided we are politically as a country. Do you see that among your peers? Do you have friends who you disagree with politically?

  • Rebecca McKinney:

    I mean, I have had personal experience with one of my closest friends who is completely on the other side of the aisle than me.

    But we have these really informed and intelligent conversations, which are awesome, and we learn from each other. We learn the other side. And that's really important to our friendship. But we also know that it doesn't affect and it doesn't hurt our friendship at all.

    But I have had other previous friendships that we're no longer friends anymore, where it's been the complete opposite.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    If you had one message for the next president of the United States, what would that be?

    Rebecca, let's start with you.

  • Rebecca McKinney:

    Dear Mr. President, try to make this country better than when you stepped into office.

    I think that, right now, we're really divided, and this next four years is going to determine how the next — how the future of our country is going to go. And I just hope that you will be able to work with the other side and that we're able to make our country better.

  • Malick Mercier:

    To the president I would say, I need you to really think about how your policies impact people in their everyday lives.

    I would also say to know that young people have more access to information than we have ever had, and we are using that. We're aware of what's going on. And we want to work with you. We want to make the world a better place. So, please, please help us do that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Malick Mercier and Rebecca McKinney, two first-time voters joining us tonight.

    Thank you so much to you both.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And thank, Amna.

    Thank you to these young people. We hope the next president listens to what they have just said.

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