The Daily Gamecock

Students report few issues voting by mail, in person for 2020 election

Students cast their ballots via mail, early voting and in person this Election Day in a general election that saw the highest voter turnout in over a century.

With an estimated 159.8 million ballots cast, the 2020 election saw the highest number of votes ever in a presidential election and the highest turnout rate since 1900. Many students, such as third-year business management and marketing student Zoey Katz, were voting in their first presidential election this year. 

"It felt great," Katz said. "I really was excited just because, I don’t know, I’ve been waiting for this election since the last one. I couldn’t wait to vote and use my voice, so I was really happy to do it. I felt like I was doing something not only for myself but for my community."

Of 52 students interviewed by The Daily Gamecock, 31 chose to vote by mail. Most students reported few issues receiving and filling out their mail ballots.

"Pennsylvania was actually super easy," said Morgan Lill, a third-year marketing and real estate student. "They sent me an email when they sent the ballot to me in the mail, and then they sent me an email saying it was delivered, and then I picked it up."

Lill said she also received a confirmation email when her ballot was received. 

However, the process wasn’t straightforward for everybody. Some students, such as John Stenglein, had complications with their mail ballots.

“I got my ballot in the mail, but there was no actual ballot in it," Stenglein, a second-year finance and marketing student from Virginia, said. "So the envelope to return it and envelope it came in and some instructions were all in it, but it was missing the actual ballot.” 

Stenglein was issued a new ballot before Election Day.

Other students opted to vote at the polls, with some voting early and others voting on Election Day. With the country still in the middle of a pandemic, polling locations took safety precautions to ensure the safety of voters.

“It seemed very sanitary. Everybody in the polling center was wearing masks. They had [to] use Q-tips to touch the screen, to stop the spread that way,” CeCe Johnson said. 

Johnson, a second-year criminal justice and anthropology student, voted at a Columbia precinct on Election Day.

Others who voted on Nov. 3 reported short lines and wait times at in-person voting locations. First-year English student Abby Cole said the wait at her early-voting location was not long. 

“I only waited for about an hour. The poll workers were really nice," Cole said. "They cheered for me because it was my first time voting, so that was nice.”

Some students had longer lines, waiting several hours to cast their vote. Peter Haley, a first-year doctoral student in music, said he found long lines as he voted on Election Day. 

“We had a long line. We were there as the polls opened at White Knoll High School, and it took us about two hours to get through the line,” Haley said. “It's the longest that I've ever waited in line.” 

Of the students interviewed, few were surprised that a winner was not declared on Tuesday night. With the surplus of mail-in voting and other factors, it took until Saturday for news organizations to call the race for President-elect Joe Biden. 

"I was kind of expecting that it would take some time, but I think it's really interesting that it's left up to a few states, it's so close," second-year international business student Anna Nelson said. 

First-year political science student George Murphy said he voted straight-party Republican because he was worried about what policies Democrats would implement if they won office.

"This is like battle for the fate of the freaking universe-type stuff right here,” Murphy said. “If the Democrats win, they can pack the court. They can give statehood to two more states that will give them four more Democratic senators, and then they can do whatever they want to for at least two or four years.”

Second-year economics student Hugo Salazar said he was motivated to vote because he was concerned with President Donald Trump's character.

"I personally just cannot support Donald Trump,” Salazar said. “When I see someone that morally wrong in my eyes, I have to take a step and actually vote against that."

Lill, the student from Pennsylvania, said she was glad that the election cycle was coming to a close.

“I’m just over it, in all honesty," Lill said. "It’s just brought up so much heat and tension for no reason in a lot of communities, and it’s just breached further than politics. It shouldn’t be the only thing I’m talking about with people but it’s just taken over everything, so [I'm] definitely frustrated, just ready for it to be over.”