Commentary: What drove a student to vote

Commentary: What drove a student to vote

After an eight-hour drive, I vote in a state where it will hardly matter but matters to me.
Published: November 2, 2020
Anne Hayes submits her 2020 election ballot in Connecticut.
Anne Hayes submits her 2020 election ballot in Avon, CT.

In 2016, approximately 43% of registered voters did not show up on Election Day. Americans blamed their busy schedules or the fact that their state has historically voted the same each year. Well, for my first time voting in a presidential election, I drove eight hours to vote in a state that has solidly voted blue since 1992.

I’m from Avon, Conn., which is a Republican town in a historically blue state. My vote, regardless of who it is for, is not likely to make a difference because of the state’s voting record, but it makes a big difference to me.
Election 2020

I grew up fascinated with politics — my childhood favorite song was the Schoolhouse Rock Preamble, which I would run around the house scream-singing. I used to watch election coverage with my parents every four years like it was the Olympics Games. I was beyond excited for the first time I would be able to have a say in our own government.

In 2016, I didn’t have the privilege to vote because I was only 17. When I heard the voter turnout statistics, I was livid that so many people could shirk their civic duty. Many people see voting as a right, but, in reality, it is the duty that you owe to yourself and fellow Americans, to voice your opinion by voting. Especially in a time when the country is divided, it is crucial that Americans feel like their voice is heard and that their vote matters.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect every college kid to drop everything on a Sunday, driving eight hours just to drop off a ballot and get back to school in time — and not all students have to. I wasn’t planning on the long, spontaneous road trip, but a wrench was thrown into my voting plans when my absentee ballot was received far later than I expected. It was on Oct. 19, and by that time, I had seen countless warnings online that mailing in ballots too late may result in the ballot being excluded.

I am a big supporter of the U.S. Postal Service, however, speed and organization are not necessarily the first descriptors that come to mind. I was becoming increasingly paranoid that the mail was not reliable for something as important as this. I wanted to be 100% certain that my vote would be counted, so I made the decision to start the drive to Connecticut.

As college students, we are the future leaders of America, and it is our time to make our voices heard by any means necessary. After all, it is our future at stake. I realize that the fact I was even able to drop everything at school, and drive down to vote is an enormous privilege. But this is a privilege I can use to do good for our entire nation. My grandma said it best when I spoke to her about the election.

“We all just need to do what we think is best for the country, even if it is somewhere your vote won’t matter, you owe it to yourself and this country to put in your two cents.”