Students and faculty cast their ballots


Mia Calzolaio, Erica Jiang, and Lucy Peck

Around 7 a.m. on Election Day, Spanish teacher Daisy Vazquez headed down to the basement of her building to vote. A neighbor told her that the line wasn’t long, and when she arrived, it took less than five minutes to fill in her ballot. “It’s a joyful moment,” Vazquez said. “I’m proud of being able to vote, and it’s a right that I’m happy to exercise.”

While Vazquez was able to vote easily in person, others, like theater teacher Haila VanHentenryck, chose to mail in an absentee ballot. VanHentenryck felt uncomfortable waiting in long lines at polling locations and was unsure of whether people would be able to socially distance, she said.

VanHentenryck had never felt so much anxiety about an election before, nor had she ever lost sleep because of one, she said. “I feel like most people I talk to are losing their minds over this election and are very stressed about it, and I haven’t seen that ever before in my lifetime,” she said.

Much of her emotion comes from the tone of public discourse, she said. The idea that people attack and fight each other as a first line of defense without asking questions and the lack of empathy she has seen from political figures and the people who elected them frightens her, she said. 

Like VanHentenryck, Eli Scher (12) voted via an absentee ballot and dropped his ballot off at an early voting poll site near his house, he said. Scher lives in New Jersey, a state where vote by mail ballots were automatically sent to all registered voters, regardless of whether they planned to use them. 

Scher registered to vote in October, he said. “Voting feels to me like a privilege and a responsibility, and I was honored to be able to exercise that,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a little kid.”

Leyli Granmayeh (12) turned 18 on November 3, so she could not cast her vote until Election Day. She voted after school when the lines were shorter because less people were off from work, she said.

Granmayeh was worried about contracting COVID-19 if she voted in-person, but there were only a few people at the polls, and she was given a clean pen with which to fill out her ballot, she said.

The experience was slightly nerve-wracking but generally positive, she said. “I checked over my ballot a bunch of times because I got nervous that I was doing something wrong, but I had searched [the ballot] up before and my family had told me [about it], so I went in feeling pretty prepared for what to do,” Granmayeh said.

Prior to voting, Granmayeh worried whether she was fully prepared to vote, since part of her registration was missing in a form that she received in the mail, she said. However, after calling the Board of Elections, she was informed that her registration would process once she turned 18. 

Eli Bacon (12) said his voting experience went smoothly. He received an absentee ballot around a week after he registered and mailed it in about two weeks before the election, he said.

The experience was moderately exciting, he said. “It’s not like there was confetti, but I understood that I was doing my civic duty, and that’s really important.”

Voting for president is not the only important part of voting, Bacon said. “When you vote, you don’t vote in only one race, you vote in countless down ballot races,” he said. “Many of those races are going to have a far bigger impact on you and your personal life today than voting for president.”

It is also important to vote even if a state is expected to go a certain direction, VanHentenryck said. The mentality of not needing to vote in a state like New York, which is expected to be Democratic, is dangerous, she said. “If enough people think like that, then New York won’t go blue anymore.”

“Democracy only functions if as many people as possible are exercising their right to vote and are making their voices heard,” Scher said.

Additionally, Scher sees voting as a way to make change in the overarching political system. “Almost every person is going to have some sort of opinion on an election, so if you really value your own opinion, there’s no reason not to vote,” he said. “I think it’s the best way to share your opinion and have it make a true impact on our country.”

Voting is a way to maintain democracy, VanHentenryck said. “If we don’t vote and use the power that we have, people who don’t have a problem with using their power for nefarious means will take it away,” she said.

“Democracy requires the citizens to be paying attention and to not be apathetic and to continue voting even if, like in this race, there’s not a candidate that you one hundred percent can get behind,” VanHentenryck said.