MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (November 9, 2020) — When current Monmouth College students prepare to vote in the Election of 2060, they might think back to what a crazy time when they voted for the first time — the Election of 2020, held during a global pandemic when US political polarization was high.
Monmouth students used such words as "privilege" and "grateful" to describe the opportunity they had in this year's general election, as well as "intimidating."
"Some of the Monmouth students participating for the first time in this election could very well go on to be elected to office themselves one day, and I applaud them for taking a stand on the issues that are important to them," said political science professor Andre Audette.
Four of Audette's students shared their stories of the first voting experience; one was unable to cast a ballot.
"It was a little intimidating to vote for the first time in this election because it was a tough choice," said Morgan Bemis ('21) of Alton, Illinois. "It's nice being able to finally make that decision for myself and being a part of something huge, but it's definitely a new experience and can be very scary."
Political science major Ben Dobberstein ('22) of Oswego, Illinois, has long been interested in politics. He was informed on the issues leading up to the 2016 election, but he was only a junior in high school at the time and too young to vote.
"I truly wanted that right to vote and now, four years later, I finally get to exercise that right in a general election," he said. "As exciting as it is to vote in my first general election this year, I cannot help but be frustrated by my choices."
Again informed on the issues leading up to the 2020 election, Dobberstein said he "voted for the candidate that I believe brings the most hope for our country," and was grateful for the opportunity to do so.
"As someone who is fascinated by our American democracy and who loves my country dearly, I can only hope that my fellow citizens take advantage of their right to vote, and that they vote with purpose and meaning," he said. "At the end of the day, as frustrating as this election may be, voting is still just about the most important thing we can do to propel our democracy forward, and I am grateful to be able to do just that in my first presidential election."
Another political science major, Anita Gándara ('24) of Chicago, also understands the significance of participating in the democratic process.
"I see voting as a privilege because a woman of color, like me, was not allowed the right to vote a hundred years ago," she said. "Voting in this election is a prime example of exercising my right to vote and having my voice heard. In this election, there is so much at risk for different groups of people and casting a ballot ensures that my voice and the voices of other minorities are heard."
One voice on campus, however, was not officially heard for this election, as Fabian Gradilla ('24) of Chicago ran into a stumbling block.
"In October, I registered online to vote via an e-mail sending me to a US registration," he said. "I did so under the pretense that by registering via this process, I would be able to cast my vote early, as voting day takes place on a school day."
But Gradilla listed his permanent residence as his address and not his campus location.
"I was informed by a fellow classmate of the error of my actions and that I could not vote this election cycle as I could not physically reach the ballot location that I had unwittingly registered for," he said.
Audette said the Monmouth students who participated this year were part of an increase within their age demographic.
"Young voters historically vote at much smaller rates than older voters, although early numbers suggest that 2020 might have seen an uptick in the youth vote, particularly in battleground states," he said. "Voting is one way for young people to make their voice heard and to be taken seriously as the future leaders of the country, so it is encouraging to see more young people turning out and taking part in the democratic process."