Daniella Sucre is 19 years old. She arrived from Venezuela about five years ago and cares deeply for her adopted country. She was excited to hear Tuesday afternoon that the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden had been moved from Michigan to Miami.
But she was also wary. She’s registered as a Democrat, but doesn’t know who she’ll vote for.
“I recently became a citizen, which means I can vote for the first time,” she said. “This debate will help me make up my mind.”
Sucre and thousands of other first-time voters in South Florida will have the chance to hear a presidential debate up close.
On Tuesday, the University of Michigan backed out of hosting the debate on Oct. 15, three weeks before the November election, due to safety concerns. Such events attract large numbers of campaign staff, supporters and media. The university had previously expressed concerns about a coronavirus outbreak.
So the Commission on Presidential Debates chose to move the event to Miami, featuring the importance of the largest city in the largest swing state.
The event will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, which was the location of the first Democratic presidential primary debate last year. The Republican convention is scheduled in Jacksonville later this summer.
Cesar Sanchez, 18, is registered as a Democrat like Sucre and will also vote for the first time in November. His dad is an Independent and his mom, who is from Cuba, can’t vote. Both father and son are leaning toward Biden.
Sanchez isn’t surprised that the commission chose Miami to host the debate since the state of Florida will be a key battleground on Nov. 3.
“I’m interested in seeing if either candidate brings forward new policies that directly address issues that affect the city of Miami and its majority Hispanic community,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez won’t be seeking to attend the debate. Fear of the virus will keep him home watching the candidates on TV.
“I think I can speak for a lot of people especially around my age group when I say I’m not really excited about either of them,” said Sanchez. “There is a lot of conversation about whether one or the other is ‘a lesser evil.’ This highlights the failures of our two-party system and winner-take-all electoral politics, which has caused a lot of voters to feel disillusioned.”
Sanchez plans to vote by mail to stay safe. Though Trump has opposed mail voting, saying without evidence that it encourages fraud, both Sanchez and Sucre think it will make it easier for voters to cast a ballot.
“It will result in a larger voter turnout,” Sucre said. “Since it will come from the comfort of their home and not be exposed to the virus.”
Sucre believes both candidates cater to different groups of people, and each has his pros and cons.
“Trump has definitely been the more controversial figure these past four years due to the fact that he isn’t too focused on public opinion, and not being so popular with the recent DACA proposition,” she said. “Meanwhile, Biden has come up with different propositions regarding the current movements like Black Lives Matter, showing he focuses on public opinion to obtain votes, but that doesn’t guarantee he will follow along with everything he’s promised.”
Overall, both agree that the 2020 elections will be tough and controversial for first-time voters, considering the pandemic, recent social justice crisis, and the candidate’s profiles.
The first presidential debate will take place on Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the third one is scheduled to be on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville.
Hours after the commission’s announcement, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told Politico that, while he welcomes the debate, he isn’t sure if it will have a live audience since the city area has been one of the state’s coronavirus hotspots for a long time.
Florida has also seen coronavirus infections spike in recent weeks. On June 23, the state reported 3,289 new cases, with 583 in Miami-Dade county and 417 in Broward, as the Miami Herald reported.
Valentina Osteicoechea, 19, is a registered Independent and agrees that the debate should not be open to the public in such a virus hotspot.
“I think people showing up to the presidential debate will undoubtedly cause a spike in COVID-19 cases,” said Osteicoechea. “If you go there you are bound to get sick.”