Election carries significance for first time voters

Champaign+County+residents+vote+at+the+Brookens+Administrative+Center+in+Urbana%2C+Illinois+on+Sept.+24.+Polling+locations+nationwide+have+implemented+COVID-19+precautions.

Ryan Ash

Champaign County residents vote at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana, Illinois on Sept. 24. Polling locations nationwide have implemented COVID-19 precautions.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

Voting as a college student means entering the electorate at a tumultuous time in one’s life. For most of the University’s student body, the 2016 election took place before they reached the golden age of 18. Now they have been tasked to fulfill their civic duty in the midst of a pandemic, a historically divisive political climate and an already generally confusing and stressful time in a young adult’s life.

Very few people have escaped the stress and uncertainty that accompanies COVID-19. Students lost internships and jobs. They had to make the difficult decision of whether to stay home, dealing with the potential distractions and difficulties associated with family life, or to come back on campus with increased risks for catching the virus.

When it comes to voting safely during a pandemic, debates have raged across the country. Many have fought hard to increase the ease and accessibility of mail-in voting. Others have worked to deter this by threatening that ballot security cannot be counted on through the mail.

Experts say mail-in voting does not carry any significant risks. For those who cannot leave their house, their ballot should be safely carried by mail. Some political agents, though, are doing their best to persuade the electorate otherwise. Many will decide in-person voting at their local polling places is the best option.

Early voting locations have been open in Champaign County since Oct. 19 and easily accessible for students on campus.

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As far as COVID-19 precautions, they have markers on the floors to keep those waiting in line socially distanced. Every pen used is thoroughly sanitized before being handed out again. All the election judges wear masks to protect themselves and others while also encouraging all those who come to vote to wear a mask as well.

Overall, those organizing these voting locations have been working hard to offer a safe environment for all those who look to cast their vote.

Before even confronting the safety precautions necessary to fill out a ballot, though, new voters must do their best to navigate what has become a toxic political climate for many.

The last four years have seen extreme divisiveness between the two major U.S. political parties. While many government platforms have histories of cruelty and unkindness, many politicians seemed to have lost any sense of decorum they may once have had.

Those watching the news have seen congressional representatives call each other names many would never repeat in front of their mothers. Entire demographics of the population have been criminalized or targets of harsh political attacks.

The presidential debates have lacked the civility one would be able to find in a high school debate club, much less a nationally televised debate meant to help determine the new leader of the country.

With so many new voters seeing this as their first impressions of the democratic process, it’s reasonable many would find themselves experiencing extreme stress and anxiety. Those voting for the first time should keep in mind that this behavior should never be considered acceptable and they have the power in their vote to hold politicians to a higher standard.

One more stressor many college students face extends beyond just the voting process and that is finding confidence in their beliefs and positions.

Many students would say they know their political alignment generally speaking. However, with the accessibility citizens have to politics and the lives of politicians now, some feel expectations are higher for the depth of one’s political knowledge.

It is important to be knowledgeable about political issues and aware of how it affects not just one person’s life, but everyone’s. It is not feasible, however, to know the effects of every single public policy decision.

When going to the ballot, one might not know every single candidate on the ballot, or every single office being filled. The solution can be as simple as bringing a phone into the voting booth to Google candidates along the way. This is allowed in most states, including Illinois.

Elections have a lot of news and information that reporters and politicians try and impress upon voters and it can be stressful to try and absorb all of it. A useful destressing technique is relieving oneself of the burden to know everything. One can fulfill their civic duty by making sure to stay informed and aware.

Elizabeth is a senior in LAS

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