Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll poses with first-time voter Bryce Thomas.
When Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll entered the Google lounge in the Tampa Convention Center Tuesday afternoon, Bryce Thomas, 20, squealed with delight and asked the lawmaker to take a photo with her. It was a grand old way to start the second first day of the Republican National Convention.
Thomas, a marketing major at the University of Tampa, is interning this week with CNN/Time magazine. Inspired by an aunt who worked in local government, she views politics as a way to help others. Bryce says that while others often say they want to help people, she truly means it. Her life's passion and goal is to open a facility for kids.
On Nov. 6, Thomas will cast her first vote and is both excited and anguished.
"It's a privilege. Women haven't been voting that long and it really inspires me to make sure I make the right [choice] and that it counts as much as possible," she said. "And it's nerve-racking; I feel like my vote holds so much weight."
Thomas also expressed frustration about voter apathy, particularly among her peers. While working a voter registration drive at her school, she discovered that a lot of students weren't as excited about voting and some didn't feel the need to register.
"That offended me a little bit; the youth make a big difference in our community, and if we don't vote our voices aren't being heard," she said.
Because she feels the outcome of the election is so important, particularly in a time when there is a growing divide between the haves and have-nots, Thomas is trying to objectively weigh the merits of both President Obama and Mitt Romney. But truth be told, while she applauds many of the principles of the Republican Party, she cannot fully support some of its principles.
Like many college students, she worries about the high cost of tuition and the possibility of reduced financial aid opportunities. She likes that Obama "is trying to create change and propel us in the right direction," but is still trying to figure out whether his policies truly are taking the country in the right direction.
Thomas also is uncertain about whether Romney's tax proposal would benefit the 99 percent, and for now it seems "like a policy without hope." In addition, she's concerned about his tenure as head of Bain Capital and the stories she's heard in Obama ads about how the company's restructuring and layoffs impacted some communities.
"He says he cares about people, but I need to hear more facts," she said. "Those kinds of tangible things impact the community."
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(Photo: Bryce Thomas)