Voting for the First Time in 2020

American citizens lined up on the morning of Election Day in Shadyside to cast their 2020 Presidential vote. Photo by Aidan Birkenfeld

American citizens lined up on the morning of Election Day in Shadyside to cast their 2020 Presidential vote. Photo by Aidan Birkenfeld

Every election features first-time voters, most commonly teens and young adults. This year, in what seems to be the highest stake election of our generation, Allderdice seniors who turned 18 before November 4th were able to vote for the first time. I, along with some other Dice students, cast our votes in this election. It goes without saying how important it is for all people to vote, especially here in Pennsylvania, which is a key battleground state in Presidential Elections. 

I would say I am a pretty informed person who closely follows American politics, so I felt like I knew what I was doing going in to vote. But one thing I didn’t know was how the ballot actually worked. To clarify, I’ve gone to vote with my parents in the past and understood how the voting process worked, but this time Pennsylvania ditched the electronic system, opting for a ballot on a piece of paper where you use a pen to fill in bubbles. Very similarly to a Scantron test in school, you fill out your bubble sheet and once you’ve selected your candidates, you put your paper through a scanner that confirms your votes. As a first-time voter, I wasn’t sure exactly what the ballot would look like, but I didn’t need to, as voters are able to see sample ballots online so once they get to the polls things run smoothly.

I talked to Allderdice senior and fellow Foreword writer Kareena Katsman about her first time voting and her feelings about the process. “Being a first-time voter was nerve racking and empowering, especially turning 18 the day before Election Day,” she said. “It felt great exercising one of the most important rights you get as an adult in America so early in my life.”

Pennsylvania is a battleground state and it looks like it will stay that way for the near future. With a large number of electoral votes, PA is highly targeted by Presidential candidates to spread their message and get your vote. In 2016, Pennsylvania voted red, for President Trump. Before that, Pennsylvania hadn’t voted for a Republican candidate since 1988, when the state voted for George H.W. Bush. Katsman expressed her feelings for the flip to red in 2016 when she told me, “I felt disappointed 4 years ago when it [Pennsylvania] turned red, but now after it turned blue it felt so nice seeing that my vote turned PA blue. It was great seeing that my vote really did matter and be part of the change.”

In the 2020 Presidential election, on election night when the polls closed and the votes started to get reported, it looked like the state would be going red again like it did in 2016. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, mail-in ballots were submitted at an all-time high. As the days unfolded, returns from states including Pennsylvania slowly flipped from red to blue. Part of this flip can be contributed to the campaign strategies of both President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden. President Trump told his voters to vote in person despite the status and rising cases of Covid-19. On the other hand, President-Elect Biden stressed to his voters to air on the side of caution and mail-in ballots rather than possibly contract and spread Covid-19. 

Still, a lot of Americans voted in person. I voted in person because I felt comfortable with the social and physical distance at my polling place and wanted to fill in my ballot at a polling place for my first time. In fact, this 2020 election saw the greatest voter turnout in American history with more than 155 million Americans casting ballots. Still, only about 54% of eligible voters did so in this important election. One of the highest turnouts came from voters between ages 18 and 29. There was a large movement to get young people more involved in the nation’s politics and go out and vote. A lot of this movement was to encourage people to vote, most of this push was on social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok, which are dominated by people within the 18-29 age group. When asked about her first time voting and Katsman said, “I felt powerful with the ballot in my hand, but I was a little confused standing there myself seeing other questions, and I kept looking at my mom motioning for help because I wasn’t prepared to see other things.” Many young voters saw the ballot for the first time this year, and will no doubt be better prepared to vote in future elections. Sample ballots are available online so all voters can be informed and prepared to fill out their ballot come Election Day.

On Saturday, November 7, 2020, multiple news sources such as NBC, CNN, FOX, and The Associated Press called the election for then Vice President Joe Biden. President Trump is calling for recounts and taking legal action to fight voter fraud after falsely claiming victory Tuesday night. Trump later blasted FOX News for calling states against him despite claiming victory.

As the chips fall on this 2020 election, it is so important for Americans to out and vote. Especially here in Pennsylvania, your vote matters, and you truly can decide the direction this county goes. In an ever-changing world, change in America must follow and it is up to us to set our government up to thrive, fight for equality and protect the integrity and values of the United States of America.

CNN 2020 Election Results: