Matthews

Sports polls are not the only kind of ballot student-athletes find important.

The 2020 elections are quickly approaching, and many UF athletes are eager to vote for the first time.

Rising seniors Jordan Matthews and Tommy Mace play for the UF softball and baseball teams and look forward to sporting an “I Voted” sticker on Election Day.

Mace said, “I think that it’s really important, not only the presidential, but all the local (positions) that you’re allowed to vote for in this election.”

He believes local elections have more of an impact on a person’s day-to-day lives than national ones. Mace added that, if an American doesn’t agree with how their city or state is being run, that should be enough motivation to get them to vote.

“If you don’t agree with what your state or city is doing, then the reason why you should vote is to try to change your city,” he said. “You should have pride in where you live and want it to be as perfect as your mind thinks it should be.”

It was very difficult for many people of color like Matthews to vote before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Because of this, she is eager to vote to create change and make society equal for everyone.

The United States trails most developed countries in voter turnout according to the Pew Research Center.

Matthews said she thinks voting is a choice and shouldn’t be mandated. But, she hopes voters who had chosen not to vote in the past will be persuaded by what has happened so far in 2020.

“I would tell them to look at what our country is today,” she said. “Right now, we're going through two of the biggest pandemics ever to hit the United States. That is COVID-19 and racism, and passing on voting led to a man who is not only responsible but uncaring of what is going on.”

Mace believes that a citizen’s choice to vote or not is what makes America so great.

“It's a right, not a duty in America to vote,” he said. “I don't think that people should be forced to do something that they don't feel comfortable doing. I hope that when you vote in elections or local elections that you have enough knowledge to make a vote that you truly believe in, and that's all that matters.”

Politically, Matthews is a progressive and like many progressives, what she really wants is equality.

When looking at voter turnout by age group, young adults are the group who turn out the least. The 18-to-29 age bracket had the lowest voter turnout of any age bracket in the 2018 midterm elections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and just 43 percent voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to Duke Today. However, Matthews thinks that is changing.

“Historically, people my age haven't shown up to vote,” she said. “But I feel like this year has been so different with everything that has happened, like the Black Lives Matter movement. I think that it’s already changing.”

A common excuse for why some people don’t vote is because they think their vote is one of millions and it doesn’t really count. Matthews’ counter to that reasoning is that voters should change their mindset.

She said if every individual believes their vote matters, that will convince others to vote as well.

There are other ways to make an impact in one’s community besides voting. For example, Matthews uses social media to inform followers about issues going on in the U.S. that they may not be aware of.

“I use my own social media,” she said. “Before this, I would just post about softball, but after all of this, I started using my social media to shed light on social issues.”

Tanner Stump has been an assistant coach for the men’s tennis team at Florida for five years.

He said he also believes voting is a choice but added that people who do vote are exercising all of the freedoms that have been afforded to them. Most of the players on the tennis team have the opportunity to vote for the first time, and he offered some advice for them and others who are finally of age.

“It's exciting to be of that age now where you are old enough to have an impact on the country and serve your country by voting,” Stump said. “My encouragement to the team, and to other young individuals out there, is to exercise your right and do your homework on what certain people stand for and make sure that it aligns with the values you think are best for our country.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter @zacharyahuber and contact him at [email protected].

Zachary Huber covers men's tennis for the Alligator. This is his first semester working for The Alligator. He's a junior studying journalism at UF.