Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog contributor and newly-experienced voter Mariela Quintana polls former virgins of the democratic process and reflects on ballots cast and chances lost.
Today was my first time. As I was walking to class this morning, I felt a bit jittery and apprehensive—and it had nothing to do with the two cups of coffee I had with breakfast. I realized that I would not only be casting my first vote today, but that I would be casting it in a very close race. After today, my vote would no longer be my opinion alone. After today my vote would be an action, something that might just have a consequence. Sure, before today my politics had mattered, but there was room for apathy and second guessing myself. I had never thought of my politics or my right to vote in this way: Could my vote really matter? Am I really sure my candidate will make the best president? Am I just being swayed by popular opinion? If I don’t trust my own ability to vote wisely, then how can I trust the ability of any other American to do so? It was still before lunch, and I was already beginning to question the very foundation of our democracy.
This afternoon in Lerner, I talked to numerous first time voters. I was surprised by the different reactions students had to the monumental rite of passage. Most students were glad to talk about the election and were even willing to divulge for whom they were voting, though most did opt to remain anonymous.
One of the difficulties for undergraduate voters is not just registering to vote, but obtaining absentee ballots from their state of residence. The students I spoke with showed a determined dedication to cast their votes today. They all felt strongly today is an important election and are willing to make the effort to make their voices heard and make their vote count. Three students were traveling home to New Jersey to vote for their candidates. Two girls I spoke to plan on going all the way to Virginia to vote in the state’s primary next week because their absentee ballots have not come through yet.
Many students, unfortunately, did have the time to get their absentee ballot act together. One sophomore from San Francisco was especially nervous about tonight’s results. He felt voting would have resolved some of his worries, but with so much of both Clinton and Obama’s campaigns focusing on the need for change, he simply didn’t know what to expect.
Many students mentioned that voting for the first time made them more confident in their support of their candidate. I was relieved to find that most first-time voters had a generally positive experience, with the exception of one sophomore girl who mentioned that the electronic voting machine at her voting location were broken. She told me the gaffe did not ruffle her too much, “It was kind of like filling out SAT bubbles back in the day,” she laughed.