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Students Talk Voting Experiences

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With the early voting process nearing completion across the United States (U.S.), many SMU students have already placed their ballots for the 2020 election by mail and in-person. Despite the challenges of voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, multiple students remain committed to making their voices heard.

Communications Director at MOVE Texas Charlie Bonner said young people often underestimate their power as voters. According to him, Gen Z voters have the potential to make up 10% of votes within the U.S., and young voters could make up a third of all voters in Texas.

“Our generation is really passionate about so many issues,” Bonner said. “We’re really connected with our values, whether it be showing up in the street for racial justice and ending police violence or showing up to protest for climate change or rallying on campus for campus sexual assault prevention.”

For many SMU students, taking part in the 2020 election means requesting and sending back absentee ballots. For this election, Bonner mentioned no special requirements are necessary to vote early in Texas, and anyone outside of the county he or she is registered in on election day is qualified to vote by mail.

For some students voting for the first time, the process had the potential to be complicated and confusing. Kayla Hernandez, a fourth-year student with dual citizenship in Australia and the U.S., voted for the first time. Hernandez said although she was nervous about the process, she was able to find resources to help her prepare to vote early in person.

“Surprisingly, Snapchat helped me prepare my ballot with a practice ballot service, and a simple Google search for early polling locations helped me figure out where to go,” Hernandez said. “Overall, [it was] a super easy and stress-free process.”

Out-of-state students also had opportunities to participate in the mail-in process. Second-year student Alyssa Johnston completed a mail-in ballot and sent it back to her home state of Washington. Johnson mentioned Washington offers mail-in voting for all voters, and her online voter portal let her know when her ballot arrived.

“This is my second time voting this way, and both times it has been super easy,” Johnson said. “Each time, I’ve received confirmation that my ballot was received as soon as I expected it to arrive, so that has never been an issue.”

Third-year President’s Scholar Sydney Ward submitted her ballot to Florida. Like Johnston, Ward commented on how simple the process was for her and her prior experience with voting by mail-in ballot.

“I’ve heard that other people’s ballots have a lot of different requirements, like being notarized or signed by someone else as a witness, but Florida just requires my signature,” Ward said. “I didn’t even have to buy a stamp.”

Early voting ended in Texas on Friday, Oct. 30. In-person voting will resume on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. You can find more information about voting in your state at Vote.org.

“I just really believe with my whole heart that if more people voted and more people had the opportunity to make their voices heard, we’d all be better off for it,” Bonner said. “I know politics can be nasty and confusing and really off-putting to a lot of people, but that sense of empowerment that you get from deciding the future of your community- no one can take that away.”

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