These articles were submitted by students in Professor Mo Krochmal’s Fall Semester 2020 News Writing class.
Fort Lee Voters Give Thumbs-Up on Election Day Experiences
By James Laughlin
FORT LEE – The Jack Alter Community Center on Anderson Avenue is the most popular voting location with a polling place and one of the town’s two Bergen County ballot drop boxes.
A survey conducted among members of the Fort Lee Facebook Group on election day asked voters to describe their experience voting in the 2020 election — an election like no other– and, arguably, one of the most important in American history.
Fort Lee polling places limited voting machine usage just to the blind and the disabled. Other voters, who opted to vote in person, would fill out a provisional ballot, which are typically used when a voter’s eligibility is uncertain.
Franceska Bezama said she went to the center to vote in person, “I went in to vote as a first-time registrant. I wanted to take part in the full blown voting experience.”
“They handed me the papers to fill out, but sat at a very exposed table with no privacy at all, so I quickly filled out my ballot,” she said. However, she assured that voting went smoothly and those using the drop box were all practicing social distancing.
Others said they did not want their vote cast on a provisional ballot.
“We mailed our ballots a while ago. I would have liked to vote in person like I have always done, but in person it would have been on a provisional ballot, which I did not want to do,” said Katherine Marrara. “So, for the first time in my voting life, I had to vote by mail.”
Voters were also able to submit their mail-in ballots at a polling place. After Arline Daniels, a Fairleigh Dickinson University alum, brought her mail-in ballot to the community center, the poll-watcher found her name and had her sign the ballot.
“He then showed me that he sealed the envelope and placed it in a lockbox located behind him,” Daniels said.
Still, the official Bergen County drop box was the apparent favored method of voting for Fort Lee residents.
Kacy Knight submitted his absentee ballot at the drop box on Nov. 3. He said, “It was the easiest thing I did all day. I even ran into a few fellow procrastinators, which was nice.”
Maria Emad walks her dog by the community center every day and saw voters using the drop box since its placement. “Every time I passed by, there was always someone mailing their ballots,” she said. “I think the location of where they put the [drop]box was strategically placed in a good spot because people could easily pull over with their car to easily drop their envelope in.”
The New Jersey Department of State website allows voters to track the progress of their ballot to assure that it arrived and was counted. Many participants said they were pleased with the convenience of mailing in their ballot at their own discretion. To be able to verify that the ballot was received online made this the favored method of voting among these Fort Lee voters.
According to NorthJersey.com, 397,231 out of 678,883 voters in Bergen County submitted their ballots before Election Day. This means that 58% of voters mailed in their ballots.
Despite the uncertainty of voting through a global pandemic, Fort Lee residents made their voices heard and their votes counted.
Can Gen Z Issues Change the Election?
By Elizabeth Scalzo
With only weeks to go until Election Day, college students have issues that are driving their decision of who to vote for. What truly matters to new voters?
Most college students range in age from 18 to 24, meaning the majority could not vote in the 2016 election.
In the 2018 election, KFF.org calculates 8.7 million people ages 18 to 24 voted. Since the last presidential election, more than 15 million people have turned 18, according to Tufts University.
Three out of the five students interviewed in this article are from Pennsylvania, which is a swing state and matters greatly to the candidates for president because it may be key to who wins.
In the midst of a global pandemic and looking for a bright future, college students have a lot on their minds.
“I think the main issue for anyone is to get the pandemic under control, but in the next four years the most important issues for me are the economy, climate change and gun control,” said 20-year-old Chris Daubert, an FDU student from Danbury, Connecticut, via text.
Isabella Del La Rosa, a 19-year-old FDU student from Teaneck, N.J., agrees.
“I’m worried about the pandemic,” she said. “We need to do more to get it under control or nothing in our country is going to get back on track.”
Besides the pandemic, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the fight for equal rights, the social-justice movement and Black Lives Matter are important issues for young voters.
“I have to say with this election I’m really focused on equality,” said Allie Myers via Snapchat, a 20-year-old Clarion University student from Morrisdale, Pennsylvania. “We don’t know what could happen and who will replace Justice Ginsburg, so now more than ever, equality needs to be at the forefront of our minds.”
Sara Flood, a 21-year-old, Penn State (Altoona) student from Sandy Ridge, Pennsylvania, has other issues in mind, too. “The biggest issue for me is abortion rights and the right for me to choose,” she said via Snapchat. “As a young adult, it’s scary to me that I may lose the right to choose to have an abortion.”
Bethany Coudriet, a 19-year-old East Stroudsburg University student from Grassflat, Pennsylvania, majoring in early childhood education, said via Snapchat: “I’m worried about education and the possible changes in the system. Whoever is elected will set forth the curriculum I have to follow when I graduate, and I just want what is best for my future students.”
Looking at the range of issues that these students have concerns about, Generation Z voting may change the outcome significantly of the election.
“I think the biggest issue is people just need to vote because without their vote the next four years could be drastically different” Myers said.
“I Am Overwhelmed!” How Young Voters Feel About the 2020 Election
By Gissell Umana
What motivates young people to vote, or not? A cross section of young voters in this reporter’s network answered that question.
Most voters are 30 years old or older, according to the U.S. Census, and the oldest generation, 65+, represents the majority of voters. In the 2018 election, over 66% of the voter turnout was older than 65, but only 35% of the voters were in the 18-29 age range, the census says.
Diana Hernandez, a 20-year-old Stockton University student in Galloway Township, N.J., has decided to not vote in this election.
“I do not want to vote, mainly because I don’t know enough information about each candidate — I’ll feel like I am wasting my vote if I go into it blindly,” Hernandez said via text. “I can’t learn everything about them and what they want for this country in such a short period of time, and I am overwhelmed.”
For someone who has never voted, understanding the policies of each candidate can seem like a daunting task. Some may want to make a difference, but are afraid of making the wrong decision. Others, like Brad Davis, a 28-year-old living in Bellingham, Wash., feel like their choice does not matter.
“I don’t vote because I, personally, don’t feel like my vote makes any semblance of a difference in my blue state,” Davis said via Instagram. “In Washington, the Democrats would win, regardless if I voted or not. The first presidential debate was a nightmare and, if I had the choice, I would throw away both candidates and vote for someone else.”
Phoebe Campbell, a 27-year-old Democrat from San Francisco, attending Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., said her vote would affect her life personally.
“I have several pre-existing conditions that, when untreated, make my life unliveable and, even treated, make it difficult to hold down a job,” Campbell said via Instagram. “A second Trump term would directly impact my ability to live independently.”
Campbell said that the executive order President Trump signed in September that he says protects people with pre-existing conditions, critics say, was largely symbolic and has no actual legal power.
“Biden was not my first or second or, frankly, probably not even my third choice as Democratic candidate,” Campbell said. “He is too established for my tastes and isn’t exactly inspiring, but I recognize that the only way we are going to move forward from here is to first stop moving backwards.”
Julissa Rodriguez, a 21-year-old from Long Branch, N.J., attending Brookdale Community College in her hometown, will be voting for the first time this year, Registering to vote was a decision that she said was the right thing to do, despite disliking both candidates.
“I am voting because if I don’t, I will not be doing my part as a U.S. citizen,” Rodriguez said. “Neither (of the) candidates, I believe, fit the role of a leader. They might just be too white and old to really understand the needs of people like me.
“Our vote is one of the most important tools we have at our disposal to participate in our democracy. To vote ensures that our voices are being heard,” Rodriguez said.
N.J. College Students: Gen Determined to Vote
By Naniyah McClain
“Honestly, I’m afraid. I don’t know how to feel about Trump or Biden. I feel very weird about voting. I just feel scared for the well-being of our country,” said Donnetta Greene, a 20-year-old Union County College student from Elizabeth, N.J., in a recent interview about the upcoming election.
For the past four weeks, Instagram influencers, like in this compilation by “theconversation.com,” and campaigns such as Rock The Vote, are reaching out to young voters to register and vote on Nov. 3. More than 15 million Americans have turned 18 since the last presidential election, reports Harvard University’s Kennedy School Institute of Politics youth poll for the 2020 election. Some 63% of respondents confirmed that they “definitely will be voting.”
People born after 1996, known as “Generation Z,” seem more interested in voting, mainly because of issues involving America’s current social climate, not the candidates, according to a news report by radio station KMOX in St. Louis.
Many students are not completely sure about the candidates, but they are willing to put their uncertainties on the back burner to protect the future of this country.
“I believe it important to realize that while neither politician seems suited as a candidate, it is our responsibility to keep history from repeating itself,” said Destinee Scott, a 20-year-old Slippery Rock University student from Elizabeth, N.J. “It is not the matter of personal feelings but the ability to see what’s at stake.”
“I will vote due to the circumstances that this whole country has been through these last four year and prior,” said Zion Edwards, a 19-year-old Rutgers student from Roselle, N.J. “ We still need justice for the lives lost and we need control over our own communities.”
College students may have a lot on their plate, but many are determined to make a difference in the election.
“We need to be more responsible. I definitely plan to vote,” said Soha Akhtar, a 19-year-old Fairleigh Dickinson University student from Fort Lee, N.J. “It’s about taking care of our country, our people, we don’t want to be treated like garbage. We’re human.”
What Draws College Students to the Polls? Celebrity Influence on Young Voters
By James Laughlin
FORT LEE, N.J. — “This is going to be my first time voting and I used to not care about this, but I think it’s really important that you do care,” said pop singer Billie Eilish to her 4.9 million Twitter and 67 million Instagram followers on Oct. 2.
Her message urges first-time voters to text “BILLIE” to 50409 to find out how to register to vote, and make a pledge to exercise their right to vote in the momentous presidential election on Nov. 3.
Eilish is but one of countless celebrities who are using their social-media platforms to rally their followers to take part in the upcoming election. Do young voters care about celebrities’ opinions?
“Celebrities and their platforms definitely have some sort of influence on the general public, and in my experiences, people feel more inclined to support their work if they share similar political views,” said Eric Choi, a 20-year-old psychology major at Drew University who will be a first-time voter. “It’s a win-win situation in a way, since these cultural icons are utilizing their popularity to shed light on issues that may not affect them.”
Taylor Swift made an Instagram post in support of a senatorial candidate in 2018. The BBC interviewed John Cutrice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, who explained that even though the candidate, Phil Bredesen, lost the election, Swift was a major influence in bringing young voters to the poll. The BBC reported that over 200,000 first-time voters registered after viewing Swift’s Instagram post and 69% of voters in that age group voted for Bredesen.
Swift returned to voice her political opinions on Instagram on Oct. 7. She promoted an interview published in V Magazine where she showed support for Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and Democratic vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris.
Still, there is doubt about the role that celebrities play in drawing young voters to the polls.
“I personally don’t think celebrities have as much influence on an election as they used to years ago,” said Andi Tafilaj, a computer science major at PACE University. “It’s like when celebrities advertise products on social media, I feel that people don’t buy into it. It’s the same when it comes to voting. Is someone going to vote because Taylor Swift thinks Joe Biden is good?”
Savannah DeMorais, a 22-year-old linguistics major at Montclair State University, said her generation is not susceptible to celebrity influence.
“I feel that our generation is different,” DeMorais said. “Not to say that sometimes we can’t be influenced by our favorite celebrities, but I think that we realize that they’re just people like us, but with more money. I don’t think their status is as impactful as they might think.”
Gen Z can influence the election, which is in a few weeks. To do that, they may have to overcome ID, residency and other challenges in order to even fill out their ballots.
“I believe our generation is the most willing to really look critically at our democracy and want change because there’s no fixing a broken system that’s corrupt to its core,” said DeMorais. “I hope our generation will have a significant influence on the outcome, I really do.”
College Students Say We Must Vote
By Jordan Sugick
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even with a global pandemic, polls show that young adults are interested in participating in the 2020 election.
Erykah Joseph, a 20-year-old junior from Washington, D.C., attending the University of Maryland, said via text: “You cannot expect to see change within our system or the issues that trouble it, if you can’t even put in a ballot for what or who you believe in.”
College students will look to fulfill their civic duty of voting in the 2020 election.
“We finally get to perform our first real adult civic duty. I get to go out and vote for what I believe in,” Camilo Villa, a sophomore at Providence College said to NPR in early September.
“Voting is one of the most important things we can do to affect change in this country. Especially minority voters” Storm White, a 19-year-old junior at Montgomery Community College from Washington, D.C., said. “Although it’s not the most hands-on form of activism, it is one of the most important, and maybe, the most important.”
Young people could wield significant political power as more than 15 million Americans have turned 18 since the last election in 2016, according to research done by Tufts University.
According to U.S. census data, Americans between the ages of 18 and 32 comprise 37% of eligible voters. That’s roughly the same share of the electorate that Baby Boomers and pre-boomers make up, according to the Brookings Institution.
However, there are some issues when trying to get young people to vote. Many young adults believe that their votes do not count — only 56% of the voting-age population cast their ballot during the 2016 election, Pew Research Center reports.
A recent study by the Knight Foundation reported that “ many students lack confidence in the legitimacy of the 2020 election.” Some 49% said that the election would not be fair and open, and 55% said it would not be administered well. A full 81% said special interest groups have more influence over election outcomes than voters.
“Sometimes, it feels like my vote won’t matter because the government has the ultimate control at the end of the day,” Zakiya Moses, a 20-year-old junior from Washington, D.C., attending Saint Vincent College, said via text.
Voting as a college student can be a struggle because, for many, it is a new process and when not given the necessary resources and information students are lost,“creating the “perfect storm” for keeping students from casting their ballot,” writes Nancy Thomas, director at the Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education.
“I think voting suppression will be a real big fault during this time due to the pandemic,” Vanessa Jean-Louis, a 20-year-old junior at Rowan University from Maplewood, N.J., said via Instagram.
Many states are making voting for college students more difficult with laws related to voter IDs and residency requirements. Without proper knowledge, votes can be rejected like they were in the primaries.
According to NPR, more than 550,000 mail-in ballots were rejected during the primaries. Many look to change this with educational programs like Rock the Vote, Teaching Tolerance, and When We All Vote, dedicated to increasing voter participation, political power and civic engagement within young adults.