The last presidential election, in 2016, coincided with my freshman year of high school. For the first few months of school, all anyone could talk about was how close a woman was to winning the U.S. presidential race for the first time. Many kids in my grade wanted to be part of such a huge historical moment and desperately wanted to vote. After the surprising outcome of the 2016 election, I knew I had to vote in the next election. No question about it.
This year, the push to vote started before the pandemic hit Berkeley. When I was still at Berkeley High School in January and February, the Vote16 club visited dozens of classrooms to pre-register students to vote. I had already filled out a paper registration form with Vote16 two years previously, but I saw hundreds of kids pre-register. Because of living in Berkeley, a highly political city, and going to Berkeley High, not only did my parents and the surrounding environment pressure me to vote this year, but my social media feeds exploded with posts on the importance of voting.
When my Vote-by-Mail ballot came in early October, I was surprised to find how much it looked and felt like a standardized test. There was an instructional blurb at the top of the first page, at least five pages of confusing text, and even multiple-choice bubbles! Luckily, my LWVBAE internship had started in September and I knew exactly where to look for information on my ballot. I visited Voter’s Edge, an online voting resource, to find out which organizations and individuals supported the candidates and measures on my specific ballot. I read clear descriptions of each proposition and measure on Voter’s Edge and the endorsements of the League and other non-partisan organizations like the ACLU to solidify my voting decisions. Fully prepared but still hesitant to make any mark on my physical ballot, I spent a Sunday afternoon filling out my ballot with my mom. Though I would have loved to visit a polling place to cast my first vote, I voted by mail to stay safe during COVID-19. My mom and I walked to the nearest mail-in ballot dropbox, and I successfully voted for the first time!
After I voted, I helped a few of my friends vote too. I shared voting resources with them, talked them through each proposition and measure, and made sure they voted early. I’m so grateful to have been able to vote even during such unprecedented circumstances and to be a part of the record young voter turnout of 2020.
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