The 2020 Presidential Election was a very memorable election experience for the United States of America. After a year of protests, turmoil, and a global pandemic, Americans were presented with a very important decision to make. Voter turnouts surged to the highest rate since the 1992 election, with 66.8% of eligible voters turning in their ballots. Gen Z cast more young adult votes than any other group of young adults have cast in any other election this century, which was influential in raising the voting percentage. For this past election, voting looked a lot different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the voters pulled through regardless.
Junior musical theatre and theatre education major, Riley Yates, spoke about her experience voting in this election and what voting means to her. “The 2020 election was not my first time voting, but I do think it was the most important election I’ve voted in,” Yates said. She went to the polls with her family, practicing COVID safety by wearing masks as most everyone else at the voting site did as well. Yates was part of the slim majority who went to vote in person, while 46% of voters chose to send mail-in ballots in light of COVID’s prominence. Voting in person can be confusing and sometimes intimidating, but Yates recalled the experience being very positive because the poll workers were kind and helpful!
There is a lot that goes into deciding who you are going to vote for. While you do vote for the next President, you also participate in state and local elections. It is essential to look into what each candidate stands for, what their plans are if they get elected, and what their party stands for. “I did a lot of research on who I wanted to vote for before going to the election. I knew I wanted to vote for people who could make a positive difference,” Yates said. Watching debates and doing research is an excellent way to stay updated on new information to consider when voting. Yates recalled feeling good about who she chose after looking at all of the options presented to her and completing her research.
For many young people, the idea of voting can seem scary and not that important if they don’t understand the entire process. But voting has a very strong importance if change is to be made. “So often, it feels like I can’t do anything to shape the future of the country. Voting is my way of making my politics heard and shaping the country the way I think it should be,” Yates said. As Yates said, voting is a chance to make your voice heard, and its importance should not be lost amid uncertainty. By voting for a candidate whose beliefs align with your own, you are actively trying to make a difference in the country we are constantly trying to improve. “I hear people complain about who the president is or what their specific state is doing, but they did nothing to try and change what happens or influence their own lives,” Yates said. She also said that she felt that this was her chance to ally with people who needed it and fight alongside marginalized groups.
Now that we’ve talked about the voting process and its importance, let’s look at the process of getting registered to vote! There are three more years before the next presidential election, but you can register to vote at any time. When you’re over 18 years old, you can register to vote at the DMV. There are also several places on and off campus to get registered. During election season, there are lots of people around campus to help get as many eligible voters registered as possible. To register, you will need to present your birth date, a form of identification (driver’s license, ID card or social security number), and a document with your current home address like a utility bill or bank statement. You can complete this in person, online, or by mail. By being a registered voter, you can vote in the presidential election every four years as well as other elections that happen within the presidential term. Midterm elections happen every two years, and this is the time to vote for senators, representatives, governors, and other local legislative races in your area.
Voting is a big deal. Overall, voting gives Americans a chance to speak their mind and voice their opinion to make a difference. “I think it’s one of the most important things we can do as people,” Yates said. You’ve heard about the importance, the process, and registering to vote. Now, it’s up to you to get out there and make your voice heard!