Seniors and teachers take to the polls to vote early and avoid potential lines on Nov. 3
Driving around the parking lot of University Park Methodist Church, senior Genevieve Minnis checks the lines before parking and making her way to vote for the first time.
During election season, 16 percent of students who were eligible to vote voted according to a recent upper school student poll. An increased number of Americans headed to the polls this year to vote. Texas itself had 9.7 million early votes cast with six percent of those votes being mail-in ballots. According to an Eagle Edition poll of 141 students, all teachers and first-time voting seniors, however, took the risk to go vote in-person, knowing the importance of their vote in this election.
“I think that everyone should vote whether it be in person or mail depending on their comfort level,” English teacher Dr. Civello said. “It is an individual decision.”
Civello voted on the first day of early voting in Texas and arrived right before the polling center opened. She voted at the Marsh Lane Baptist Church, which had various precautions set in place to protect voters and poll workers. Upon arrival, the line outside was socially distanced and before entering, poll workers took each person’s temperature. After each person voted, poll workers wore gloves and wiped down each ballot station before letting the next person vote.
“I felt very safe,” Civello said. “I encourag[ed] all students who [were] eligible to vote. This is a very important election year. Some would say democracy itself [was] at stake.”
As a first-time voter, Minnis was excited but nervous after hearing her friends describe hours-long wait times to vote.
“I did not personally [worry about my health] because I think this election was very important,” Minnis said. “All the ballot boxes were far away from each other and when you were waiting in line, everyone was spaced. I felt really safe.”
English teacher Greg Randall has taken various precautions during the pandemic to protect himself and his wife’s health and safety. He has refrained from getting any haircuts and eating in restaurants. However, after worrying about the possible inconsistency of mail-in voting this election, he decided to vote in person. Randall voted at Loos Fieldhouse in Addison.
“I wanted to vote the first week of early voting in person to take the burden off the mail service and to avoid a long line,” Randall said. “My wife had voted in person a few days earlier, so I knew what to expect: a quick and safe process at this location. The poll workers were quite efficient and professional.”
This election was like no other in that there was an increase in mail-in ballots across the country, contributing to the extended wait to hear the winner of the election. Mail-in ballots created a uncertainty, but they were also critical to Biden’s ultimate win. Before the election, Trump encouraged his voters to vote in person and not by mail. Biden, however, encouraged his voters to vote in whatever way possible. With the COVID-19 pandemic compromising many Americans’ health and safety, mail-in voting seemed like the safest option.
“During the pandemic, it isn’t just to jeopardize one’s health for the purpose of casting your vote,” senior and first time voter Olivia Hagge said. “Mail-in ballots allowed Americans to reflect their voice in who they believed would best represent their country, without the choosing whether to prioritize their health, or their ballot.”
The election demonstrated that most early voters and mail-in votes veered Democratic rather than Republican. Trump’s desire for his voters to vote in person was ultimately undermined by Democrats voting my mail in enormous numbers in order to make Trump a one term president.
“Although more Democrats appeared to be in favor of mail in ballots, there is no evidence to prove whether it led to Biden’s victory,” Hagge said. “With the ability to mail in your ballot or to vote in person, both parties were able to cast their vote in their preferred way. The ability to choose how one would vote further encouraged an accurate reflection of our democracy.”
Other voters in the community opted to vote by mail this year to avoid crowded spaces and not risk their health. Dr. Nancy Marks, who lives in Richardson, voted by mail this year, changing her usual habit of always voting in person for every election due to health risks. Marks applied for a mail-in ballot and went through the process of receiving, mailing and tracking it.
“In my opinion, as far as mail-in ballots, it is the first time I have tested the system as far as I have,” Marks said. “In these kinds of situations that affect how our democracy runs, I pay closer attention. I really do trust our system for mail-in ballots.”
Upon receiving her ballot through the mail, Marks filled it out and took it to the post office. The polling stations do not offer a tracking service, so Marks turned to a website called Texasballot.org to track the status of her ballot. She was able to track and see that the ballot was received at the polling station, but she does not know if her vote was ever counted.
“The process is fair and if you do it, you have to trust the system,” Marks said. “I do believe that whatever mechanisms used for voting, we have to trust, and we have to accept the outcomes of any election.”
Underage students had the opportunity to participate in the election process by signing up to be poll workers. Senior Andrew Pfaff was assigned to work at the Northlake Community College in Irving. To work as a poll worker, Pfaff had to undergo two training sessions and had to be at the polling station by 5:30 a.m. to set everything up. During his 12-hour shift he met many people, including the mayor of Irving and was able to learn more about the 350 people who went to vote during his assigned time at the poll station.
“I talked to a lot, politically powerful people, and also the mayor,” Pfaff said. “I got to talk to a lot of people voting, about their election process and about how they registered to vote. I think that’s a big part of being an American citizen is getting the right to vote, so it was really cool to see more people come out and exercise that right.”
Voters were overall glad they were able to vote in this election, despite worry of health and safety. Americans felt obligated to make their voices heard in such a divisive stage of the country and to contribute to the election of the next president.
“I knew that a small risk was worth it for the opportunity to vote,” Randall said. “It seems that many Americans are not taking chances with last-minute voting, whether it’s in person or by mail. It’s inspiring that this election, Americans are making voting a priority.”