There’s a First Time for Everything: Jeff High Seniors Experience This Election from a New Perspective

Amidst an election season that never seemed to end and a dramatic lead-up to tomorrow’s inauguration, it’s easy to forget the most important part of elections: the voters. Many new voters, including some Jeffersonville High School seniors, cast their first presidential ballot in this unprecedented election.

2020 was a year full of all sorts of chaos and confusion, especially since the world was hit with a global pandemic and civil unrest all in the same year as an election. These events occurring during an election year can make for some tough decisions on the candidates. Another thing candidates are dealing with are citizens who have never voted before. Jeff High, being a bridge between childhood and adulthood, has students who experienced voting for the first time.

Some of Jeff’s seniors decided to vote before the actual day. Senior Kaelin Elsner decided to go early, despite having planned to vote on election day, because she had to work the day of. Leading up to the election, Elsner said she felt a sense of “impending doom,” but now that the results are in she feels thankful. Senior Jynn Yoo also chose to vote early, as she had heard mail-in voting “is not a good option for an accurate count” (While this is Yoo’s opinion there is no credible evidence that voting by mail results in a less accurate count.)  Jynn was very anxious about the election before voting, as she did not feel her candidate of choice had a strong chance of winning. “Voting in such an important year made me feel like me or the younger generation had the power to make a difference.”

Other first time voters at Jeff decided to vote on Election day, such as Cameron Sanders. “I decided to vote in-person on Election Day due to how my voting area wasn’t that populated and I wasn’t worried about having to wait in a long line. On top of that, I was worried of marking my ballot wrong or mailing it in wrong, so I did it in person for the extra closure.” In regards to the voting process, Sanders said it felt “very underwhelming, yet overwhelming at the same time.” It was underwhelming because “there wasn’t much to do except bubble in who you wanted to vote for,” but he was nervous because voting is taught to be an extremely important thing.

Some voters decided to go on election day purely because the mail-in voting system is “untrustworthy” (While this is some people’s opinion, there is no credible evidence that mail-in voting is “untrustworthy.”)  Colin Brian, while not having cared about the results more than the other years, says the results are about what he expected. Brian also claims to have felt poorly leading up to the big day, as he feels both candidates have bad intentions in the end.

Other seniors, like Brian Klein, Evan Bealer and Mattie Blanton, went because of family. Klein didn’t know where to go until instructed by his aunt. He says he didn’t know anything about the process, but he was eager to learn. In the end, he felt like he had contributed to a major election. Blanton’s parents wanted her to go in-person so she could experience going in for her first election. Because of this, she was able to feel important in this election. Meanwhile, Bealer tagged along with his family. He says the opportunity to vote made him feel excited.

Some seniors who voted on Election day had the opportunity to have Jeff High as their voting area. Jordan Wagner, who voted at Jeff, said he was nervous because he had no idea how the process went. After voting, however, he said he felt good and as if he had suddenly grown up.

Seeing as she didn’t have time to vote earlier than Election day, Laura Gillenwater was forced to vote the day of. “[Voting for the first time] felt really empowering because I felt very strongly about this election and I was glad that I was able to vote.” Before the feeling of empowerment hit her, she felt nervous about her candidate not winning. “I had a clear candidate I wanted to win. I knew this election was going to be super close and that it could end up going either way.” Gillenwater was very happy with not only the results but the fact that this election year was able to give a lot of people who wouldn’t normally vote the chance to voice their concerns and opinions.

Unfortunately, some of Jeff’s seniors were not old enough to vote. Josiah Jackson was only 17 by Nov. 3. While not being old enough, he was still nervous. ”Being a person of color, it feels like either way things would be bad after.” Not being able to participate in the process, Jackson waited anxiously for the results. After a winner was announced, he said he is glad, and that we needed the change.

In a contentious and divided election, we often lose sight of those who the election is about, the voters, and for many, high school is the time where people first exercise their right to vote.

Story by Chloey Trinkle

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