‘I’ve Been Really Nervous’ : Tech Students Want to Break Voting Stereotype

By Ashley Spinks Dugan

November 3, 2020

Everyone says students don’t vote. Some Virginia Tech students want to prove them wrong.

BLACKSBURG-Emily Emerson, a second year Master’s of Public Health graduate student at Virginia Tech, voted absentee in this year’s election, but she saved her “I Voted” sticker for today. She wore it on her jacket as she volunteered to distribute fabric masks at Squires Student Center this afternoon.

“It hasn’t really been that busy,” Emerson said of the polling location. Anecdotally, she had the impression that many students had voted early or absentee in their home districts.

The Montgomery County Clerk’s Office paid Maya Patel to work the polls. She emerged from the building for her “lunch break” around 2 p.m., having been at the polls since 4:30 a.m. She too said voting was slow.

“It’s been pretty steady, but it hasn’t come to a point where we can’t social distance,” she said.

We covered multiple voters who cast ballots for the first time this year. That included Patel, who wasn’t exactly excited about it.

“I wouldn’t use the word excited,” she said. “I’ve been really nervous, but I’m trying to be optimistic.”

What happened to the college vote?

This lack of student turnout is surprising. Last Tuesday, a week before Election Day, only 131 students had voted. Montgomery County Registrar Connie Viar said students like to vote at the last minute, and predicted a surge on the afternoon of Nov. 3. So far, one has not materialized. 

Makayla Lopez did vote this afternoon, though. She said she felt compelled, and blamed young people for President Trump’s victory in 2016.

“Young people don’t really vote,” Lopez said. “Trump won because young people…don’t care.” 

According to the U.S. Census, Lopez is right about turnout. In 2016, voters aged 18-29 reported the lowest turnout (46.1%) of any age group.

Lopez was passionate about the vote she cast, saying of the President, “it’s time to kick him out.”

Her number one issue? Immigration.

“That’s cruel what he’s doing. He can’t get away with that,” she said. 

Elizabeth White, another Tech student, was also at the student center Tuesday afternoon.

But she had mailed her ballot back to her home district weeks ago. Response (or lack thereof) to the COVID-19 pandemic motivated her to vote, she said.

Who to vote for “was not the easiest decision,” she said, but ultimately, she wants “everyone to feel included and taken care of.”

She said she voted for President with that value in mind. 

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