First-Time N.H. Primary Voters Driven by Varied Causes, Civic Responsibility

Aug 18, 2015

When Frances Sullivan lived in Maine, she saw a lot of political ads on TV, especially during primary season. But she didn’t pay too much attention. As an independent, she didn’t participate in Maine’s presidential caucuses.

But this election cycle, Sullivan is living in the Granite State.

"At least now I’m in the state where it counts," Sullivan says. "Over there we got to hear it all, but we couldn’t do anything about it, so I think this is much more exciting."

In general, there are two types of first-time New Hampshire primary voters: the newly arrived and the newly eligible. Nicole Castillo, a student at Dartmouth, falls into the latter category.

"New Hampshire sets the stage for the national votes," Castillo says. "It's the responsibility of every New Hampshire resident and voter to make sure they're voting."

But not everybody brings that focus to exercising their franchise.

For twenty-eight year-old Shane Dupuis, who says he plans to vote for Ben Carson, it’ll be the first time he’s voted for anything. The Manchester native was never interested in politics. But now he’s paying attention.

"I've had some addiction problems in the past and getting clean has opened my eyes quite a bit to the world around me," Dupuis says. "I'm not in my own little bubble constantly anymore."

Right now, much of UNH student Gianna Tempera’s life is taking place inside the bubble that is the New Hampshire primary.

She works for NextGen Climate. Her job is to go to campaign events and ask candidates about climate issues. She’s gotten to meet many would-be presidents this way, an opportunity she says she never had in her home state.

"The candidates don't really go through New Jersey at all," Tempera says. "Like I met Chris Christie in New Hampshire, which was weird."

Tempera's yet to make up her mind on who to vote for.

That's not a problem for Stuart Jackson. He plans to vote for his current employer - Rand Paul.

"I saw someone that was willing to stand up for what he believed in regardless of what even his own party thought," he said.

Dartmouth student Sandor Farkas also wants a president who stands on principle. But she says leadership is also about cutting deals. That’s why he went to a Lindsey Graham event in Manchester earlier this month, a Graham ’16 sticker worn proudly on his blazer. 

"I think Graham is someone who has his ideals," Farkas says. "He's not willing to compromise on some things, but he's also willing to work with other people, and we need that in politics."

Twenty-four year-old Felicia Teter sees the New Hampshire primary as a way to push her own politics. She says she plans to support Bernie Sanders, but showed up to see Rand Paul in hopes of asking a question. She didn’t get called on, but wasn’t about to let that get her down. 

"I can ask questions that are bigger and I can ask questions that are bolder," Teter says. "And I can say, 'Hey, these are supposed to be issues and you just need to talk about them.'"

Candidates: consider that fair warning.