The 2020 Voting Experience
By: Annsley Hill
Photos: Freepik, Tiffany Tertipes Unsplash, Alachua County Flickr
“The Coronavirus has impacted many aspects of peoples’ everyday lives across the globe, especially when it comes to our democratic nation in The United States of America”
The Coronavirus has impacted many aspects of peoples’ everyday lives across the globe, especially when it comes to our democratic nation in The United States of America. For the 2020 presidential election, it was clear that we would all have vastly different experiences in regards to voting for the president. Apart from every other election, there have been many altercations and revisions to the voting process for not only each state, but for the entire country. From in-person voting, to early voting, to mail-in voting, there were so many different options for people to take in order to fulfil their civic duty in placing their votes
Voting in America has always been highly stressed from such an early point in not only the history of America, but in the early lives of citizens as well. Because of the pandemic, we all knew that this would not be a normal year or election, so expectations were all over the place for many people with regards to voting. First time voter, Ellen Bryce, who resides in Pennsylvania, but attends school in Virginia, had to proceed by voting a mail-in ballot because she was out of state. While she was prepared for some aspects, she said that this was “not quite [what she expected], because you hear about going to the voting polls and people being there to monitor things, but obviously that didn’t happen for me because I’m out of state.” Because of the pandemic, Bryce was unable to return to her home state to vote in-person without being penalized by her school. With regards to her expectations before the pandemic began, she said that “It wasn’t what I expected because it wasn’t in person and I’d been in a voting poll before, obviously not voting, as a child, and I thought it was really neat, and you placed your vote; but my ballot was different. Yes, I voted, but there was no sense of accomplishment in doing it. I think it would have been more special and rewarding to do it in person.
Since many ways of communication and information were spread much differently this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been many different attempts to inform the public about not only each candidate but assuring that everybody is registered and planned to vote. Ellen Bryce said, “I feel as though I did ample research on my own, but with the media and misinformation it’s very deceiving and I feel as though, yes, I did my research, but it’s really unlikely for someone to check and validate all of the sources that you hear from. I have a few trusted sources, but there are a lot of things I didn’t know about and was unsure about going into this election and I feel as though, especially with this election that it was difficult because there was a lot of negativity, probably more than other ones. I think that misinformation is something that is really popular within the 21st century, but with this specific election it was just difficult because both candidates caused just so much difficulty. They both just have such a strong track record and they both just feel so strongly about certain things and people are so ugly to each other. I am a first time voter, and I don’t know a whole lot about history with the presidents, but it feels as though the violence and stuff is not normal.” While Bryce felt negatively about the media’s twisted views, she was able to find some light in it when she said, “I think it was very well publicized, like snapchat, facebook, and instagram had stuff, like lots of ways to get you hooked up with the voting process. I know that this election we had a lot more young people voting.”
Generally speaking for a majority of previous presidential elections, a US citizen would arrive at a polling place and simply place their vote. However, given the circumstances of the current pandemic our nation is faced with, there have been some setbacks to this “normal” voting experience. This year, there were many different ways that someone could cast their vote. For Bryce, she decided to place a mail in the ballot. She said, “I think it was relatively easy. I just got it, i opened it up, i filled it out, and that was it. However, I made sure that I dropped it off well before the voting day because I’m sure the post offices were overwhelmed big time.”
For Virginia voter Rachel Lee, it was a much different experience. Lee decided to do early voting. She said, “I just did early voting because the whole situation was just super stressful and I wanted to get it over with. I did not want to have to face the long lines on election day that everybody was dreading.” Luckily for her, she did not have to worry about that. “The whole process took about twenty minutes I would say. I was very sufficient. There were people at every point telling me where to go and what to do. I think that while this election looked much different, they definitely handled it very well, at least at my polling place.” This was the experience that many Americans were hoping for. She even said that “they clapped for the new voters which I really loved. I think that it just made it so special. Even though we are in a pandemic, they still made an effort to applaud and make it memorable for the first time voters, and hopefully this positive experience encourages them to vote in future elections as well.”
While Lee had an overall positive impression of this voting experience, she did say, “I wish that they had stickers, my polling place ran out, I just feel like they should have been prepared, especially for a presidential election. I was disappointed at that aspect as I really think it’s such a satisfying and special moment as a citizen to be able to wear my sticker proudly that I voted. Other than, I don’t think I would have changed anything.”
In terms of staying cautious, given the Coronavirus outbreak, it was important to Lee to have everybody following the proper precautions at her polling place, and luckily, that is exactly what happened. “I felt really great about the whole thing, everybody was six feet apart in minimal lines, everybody had masks on, which was great to see. They had markers on the ground for where everybody should stand, which I was surprised to see that working because at most places you go nobody really follows those guidelines, so that was a nice surprise. They had clear glass protectors for the people giving out ballots which was nice. It was probably a relief for them that they didn’t have to worry as much about catching anything even though there were so many people going in and out. After I marked my ballot, they had me leave my pencil on the desk so that they could take it to sanitize and give a new one to someone else. That was just a really well thought out plan that I would not have even thought about, but I am certainly glad that they did that. I was just really happy with the whole situation,” Lee said. Lee was clearly relieved at the ample effort put in by her community’s polling place in preparation and precaution for Covid-19. She said that “even though I have voted in eight presidential elections, I have seen nothing like this, but they did a great job at executing their plans in dealing with the pandemic.”
It was a given that this year voting would look different for everybody. For 70 year old Pennsylvania resident, Sandra Kleckner, it was a difficult process. Kleckner went to vote in-person on election day. However, she took her 79 year old neighbor, Rose, who needed assistance in voting. A major fear that many people were facing was of the lines. Kleckner said, “we had lines, but I brought my neighbor who just had surgery and she had a walker and I said I don’t care if I wait in a line but please let her go in and do it and I can put her in my car and at least he doesn’t have to stand because it was really windy too. There were probably about 50 to 60 people in front of us. And maybe about 15 minutes later this lady came and they said they had to call election officials and they said that Rose could go in, but Rose ended up telling them that I was her helper, so they let me go through too. When I got in, they gave me my ballot and I didnt know what I was doing. So you go to this place and you fill out your ballot, but Rose didn’t understand and I tried to tell her that you have to fill it in with the pencil here and you then fill in the boxes. And this man yelled at me, saying what’re you talking to her for that’s not your job. And I said excuse me, mind your own business.” It is clear that this experience for Kleckner was difficult for reasons beyond the pandemic as well. The lines were the biggest shock to her as she said that “I have never had any experience like this, and this is the longest I’ve ever stood in line.” This truly says a lot considering that Kleckner has voted in fourteen presidential elections and has been registered to vote since she was twenty years old.
Once all was said and done, Kleckner decided that this experience was definitely a mess for multiple reasons. She said that “It all just seemed so confusing, you didn’t know which way to go. It was categorized alphabetically and you had to stay either left or right. But there was no preparation, like you didn’t know what you needed to do beforehand. After I voted, you didn’t know what you needed to do after. Then my neighbor didn’t do it right, so she had to redo it because the guy didn’t let me help her. The whole thing was just so odd and so different, i didn’t know what to expect. Like before you could just go in and just stand inside the booth and you could just pull the lever for straight republican or straight democrat or just split your ticket, but this was coloring it in and so you just didn’t know if people who were showing you what to do could mess with your vote somehow because it was so new to me from how I had always done it. It was just so much easier before.”
In comparison to the previous elections that Kleckner had voted at, this one took the cake, from the lines, to the distancing, to the disorganization of crowds. She said, “In previous elections, there might have been a little bit of a line, but nothing like this.” In regards to the monitoring of social distancing and mask-wearing, Kleckner said that “everyone had their mask on, but no one was really six feet apart, especially in the line. We weren’t on top of each other, but we definitely weren’t all six feet apart. It was very different, a lot of anxiety about it. It makes you wonder how other people are doing it, and where all of the voting fraud and illegal voting comes on.” This brought Kleckner upon sharing another stressful voting time in her life when her mother was in a nursing home. “I know that my mother, when she was in a nursing home, was registered in Delaware county. Soon after, I got a letter that they changed my mother’s polling district to Media, which was where her nursing home was. One day, I walked in and they were taking her picture for a voting poll. I was shocked because my mother shouldn’t be voting, she doesn’t even know what year it was, let alone who’s running for president. But that’s what they did for the other people at the home, they fill it out and then make them sign it. I think eventually, someone got her to vote for her ballot for themselves. I just don’t like that, I mean these people don’t know the time of day. There is just so much room for cheating. It’s just crazy some of the fraud,” Kleckner said. With everything that has gone down this year, many Americans feel as though there has been much more room open for fraud than any other election, and this has certainly caused much anxiety amongst the nation. As for Kleckner’s husband, Kleckner said that he “got three applications to vote in the mail, but I got none. It just makes you think, if they are that careless about sending so many identical ballots, are they just as careless to count them three times if someone were to send out all of them. There is just so much uncertainty.” The wide window for voting fraud in the United States this year caused a lot of stress among not only Kleckner, but for our entire nation.
From such an early time in our nation, it has always been an extremely important foundation instilled in our society to vote. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Nobody will ever be able to deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” This quote, among many others has helped us to structure our American lives around voting, thus stressing the importance of voting to the American people. However, last year, nobody could have predicted that we would be stuck in a pandemic during a presidential election. It was a different experience for everybody, but these differences in choices and experiences are what make our nation different and valuable to the other countries around us. In the words of Kleckner, “These are definitely extraordinary times,” and they will hopefully lead to a better and more unified nation at the end of it.