As I read the email from Head of School Bryn Roberts that my senior year would be shifting to completely distance learning, I understood that absolutely nothing should be taken for granted as I walked into 100 Village Center Drive to cast my ballot for the 2020 election. In a year that continues to reiterate how easily everything can be taken away from us, I walked into a building that would solidify me as a new fully recognized member of the nation.
I turned 18 near the beginning of this school year, but I have been looking forward to voting since I was in eighth grade and realized that in the next election I could be a part of the people referenced in “We the people.” Voting was a prospect long in the future, but as that future date drew closer, I felt the pressure of society in a way that I never could have imagined. Through news programs, Instagram stories, and almost every interaction I had, I was further informed for my decision on the ballot. It seemed like people were more invested in this election than usual, but this was my first time being invested at all so I was unsure if this was normal for election time. Now we know that while there was only a 60.1% voter turnout in the 2016 election, there was a record number of votes in the 2020 election. This idea surrounding the election leading up to Nov. 3rd pointed to the significance of voting this year even more than in the past.
People on both sides of the ballot loved to tell me who I should vote for and why. They would usually start with a baseless claim supporting their candidate that was followed by an essay of reasons not to support the opposing candidate. People were more focused on providing me with a reason not to support the opposition than actually showing me what the alternative would be, and it seemed that their goal was simply to win. There was no intention of unity on either side, instead their goal was to simply beat the other side. This solidified the depth of the split between the two sides of our country in my mind. I started to inform my decision based on the shortcomings of the two candidates rather than what they would be able to provide.
I drove into the parking lot and was welcomed by signs adorned with information for voters who were not able to leave their car and guidance for everyone to social distance and wear masks. I didn’t have to wait in line, thank you to everyone who voted by mail, and was greeted with excitement by a masked volunteer that verified all of my information and sent me to the next table. I was handed my ballot by another volunteer who had initially assumed I had voted before. She quickly realized that I was voting for the first time and gave me a very simple set of steps for filling out both sides of the ballot. I walked to my voting booth with a resounding “thank you” from the person that explained how to fill out the ballot. Everyone was trying to stay as socially distanced as possible in the small room and no one was allowed to enter without a mask. People were willing to do whatever it took to make sure everyone could vote, even if they wanted to vote in person during a pandemic.
The people in that room made me feel like I was doing something bigger than myself, something great. I had not thought about voting seriously until after I was already filling out my ballot. I stood in the booth and just thought about exactly what I was doing. I was, for the first time, giving my input and my voice was heard, just as everyone else. The fact that I can do this, show up and speak to the government, is something bigger than myself. I felt like just a small part of an incredibly diverse whole. A small part with the opportunity to show my opinion and combine with the rest of the nation to show just how important we see this election as.
Every Instagram story and friend telling me to go vote made sense, but not until after I had seen my ballot collected and counted did I fully understand the value of my input. Whether or not my opinion is amplified by others, the value in voting only needs to mean something to me. Voting showed me that even if my vote is just one of many that was cast, my opinion was valued beyond me, as something bigger than myself.