Vaneck Kounga, ’20, ’21G, Audrey Schimmel, ’20 ’21G, Kelley Barrett, ’20, ’21G, woke up at 5:30 a.m to be on line by 6 a.m to vote in this election. They voted at the Banana Factory polling station. (Shana Lichaw/B&W Staff)

Lehigh students — many first-time voters — head to polls

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Polling locations for the 2020 presidential election opened in Pennsylvania at 7 a.m. this morning, however, many Lehigh University students and South Bethlehem residents arrived as early as 6 a.m. to wait to cast their ballots.

The first students at the Banana Factory polling location on West Third Street were fifth-year students Kelley Barrett, Vaneck Kounga and Audrey Schimmel. 

Across the three South Bethlehem polling locations — the Banana Factory, Broughal Middle School and St. John’s Lutheran Church  — there are two polling booths within each of the two wards, ranging from one to four poll workers at each location.

Outdoor poll workers have been providing snacks, water and a cheerful attitude while encouraging voters to stay in line throughout the wait in order to make their voices heard during a chilly morning with temperatures in the 40s.

Nina Alameno, ‘21, is a first-time voter in a presidential election. She arrived at the Banana Factory at 6:25 a.m. and entered the building around 7:15. To Alameno, she is basing her vote primarily on social issues, as she is less concerned with fiscal policy in this specific election.

“I think even when I’m independent and an older person, I will still very much think social issues are what drive my voting,” Alameno said. “Specifically, with the recent Supreme Court justice in place, I just think it’s really important to vote with that in mind, whatever that means for you, but as a young woman I have to stand up for myself and my own rights.” 

Wait times across polling locations have ranged from 60 minutes to two hours throughout the morning thus far. Once inside, voters spent approximately 30 minutes waiting to be checked in prior to making it to the voting booth.

As of 7:30 a.m., most people on line at the Banana Factory were Lehigh students — many of which were first-time voters.

Claire O’Hara, ‘24, said it was important to her to vote in Pennsylvania — even as an out-of-state student. And despite the pandemic, O’Hara said it was important to her she voted in person.

“I think this election year there’s a little more risk than others,” O’Hara said. “But I don’t feel threatened. I honestly feel more safe voting in person because I would feel unsafe mailing it in since there’s so many this late.” 

Lucie Swan, ‘24, and Alex Daddabbo, ‘24 are voting in the presidential election for the first time. They both decided to vote in Northampton County because of difficulties they felt came with receiving a mail-in ballot from their home county and because “our vote counts more in Pennsylvania.” 

Past election data show why Pennsylvania, and Northampton County in particular, are key to determining the next president.

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