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Florida First-Time Voters Share Their Thoughts On The Election

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now to Florida, where we're checking in on three Americans voting in their very first presidential election.

ANNELIESE RODRIGUEZ: If I have that privilege, the power to vote, I'm going to use it, you know?

KELLY: That's Anneliese Rodriguez. She's a freshman at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla. She turned 18 in January and registered as an independent. One of the issues she cares about most is financial stability.

RODRIGUEZ: One of the amendments - it's, like, in Florida specifically - to raise the minimum wage - you know, and I think that's, like, super-helpful, especially for, like, college kids. Like, student loans - like, it's expensive, and a lot of us end up in debt for years.

KELLY: Over in Tampa, Jennifer Perez is also voting for the first time as a new U.S. citizen. Her family immigrated from Cuba to Mexico. And in 2013, they drove to the U.S. border to apply for asylum. Even before she got her citizenship in 2018, there was a political learning curve.

JENNIFER PEREZ: I think for me, the first few years was trying to just understand how everything worked here because I didn't know, you know, Democrats, Republicans. I didn't really know what that standed (ph) for.

KELLY: Perez eventually registered as a Democrat and says climate change and women's rights are among the issues motivating her vote.

PEREZ: It was just so hard to get here, right? And I want to, like, put down roots here and have a life here. So I want this place to be, ideally, what I want it to be.

KELLY: Our third voter is Lance Wissinger, a small business owner in Fort Myers. In 2003, he crashed his car in a drunk driving accident. He spent 4 1/2 years in prison on a felony charge and five more on probation. But a recent amendment to the Florida Constitution allows citizens with felony convictions to vote again after serving their sentence and paying all court fees and fines, and Wissinger took advantage.

LANCE WISSINGER: I'm a registered Republican. People assume when you hear returning citizens or you see people with felony convictions that they're automatically Democrats. I don't care who you vote for. I just want you to go vote.

KELLY: Wissinger voted early in this election and says he did his research first.

WISSINGER: And so when I went in there, I knew the choice that I was making was the choice that mattered to me and that I was voting for the people that held my values the closest. And so as I'm thinking about that and as I'm filling in those circles - and it's like, I'm actually starting to tear up a little bit now. So it's just, like, to know that I put the time and effort in and that I'm able to do this now, it was just - it was so surreal.

KELLY: That is first-time voters Lance Wissinger, Jennifer Perez and Anneliese Rodriguez in Florida, three of the many millions of Americans casting their ballots in this election.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE LIMINANAS SONG, "(I'VE GOT) A TROUBLE IN MIND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.