On the evening of Nov. 2, Saige Anapolle, ‘23, had to make the last minute choice between not voting or driving six hours to Bethlehem to cast her vote in the 2020 election.
She ended up driving six hours on the night of Nov. 2 to ensure her vote would be counted in Pennsylvania.
Anapolle is living at home in Massachusetts this semester due to COVID-19, but she is registered and had planned to vote by mail in Pennsylvania. She sent in two separate mail-in ballot applications, one in September and one in October, yet still never received confirmation of her application recieving approval.
“I was talking to the elections office and I was told that they were months behind in reviewing them, and I should just send in a second one, and it still never got to them,” Anapolle said. “Or they didn’t have time to review it.”
Similar to Anapolle, other Lehigh students’ Election Day experiences were in line with the general theme of 2020: Unexpected.
Kirk Cobb, ‘21, said he is living off campus this semester, but his home state is North Carolina. He voted in North Carolina for the 2016 presidential election, but for the 2018 midterms, he voted in Pennsylvania.
Cobb said he was unsure if he was supposed to vote in North Carolina or Pennsylvania for the 2020 election.
Cobb went online to a voting website and after entering his information, was told he was registered to vote in North Carolina, so he requested an absentee ballot for North Carolina. He did not want to return it by mail and instead brought it to a Pennsylvania polling location on Election Day.
“I talked to the polling judge there and he was like, ‘Let me make a phone call’ to his supervisor, which took 15 minutes,” Cobb said. “They ultimately decided to void my absentee ballot since I was most recently registered in Pennsylvania, and to just do an in-person ballot for Pennsylvania opposed to an absentee ballot for North Carolina.”
Isabel Hagar, ‘21, went home to Berwyn, Pennsylvania, to vote in the election after experiencing issues receiving her mail-in ballot in Bethlehem. Other Lehigh students also complained about issues receiving their mail-in ballot.
Hagar said she did not receive her first request for a mail in ballot due to an issue with her address, and when she received her ballot after a second request, the secrecy envelope was already sealed, which marked her ballot as invalid.
Hagar said that she was concerned about voting in person during the pandemic because of possible crowds, but she happened to be the only person voting at the polling location when she went.
As she walked into her polling location — her former middle school — the first poll worker she encountered was a woman wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
“It seems people are getting farther and farther apart rather than closer.”
–Saige Anapolle, ‘23
“As a 21-year-old I am relatively new to the voting process, and I was pretty caught off guard when I saw a poll worker who was allowed to display their partisanship so outwardly like that,” she said.
Hagar said when she got home she called Pennsylvania Voter Services to report the incident. She was told that poll workers who are greeters outside a polling location are allowed to wear apparel that shows support for particular candidates, but poll workers inside the polling location are not.
“While she didn’t say anything about President Trump or attempt to sway my vote in any way, I didn’t think any voter should be subliminally influenced by the sight of something like that right before they enter the polling location,” Hagar said.
Anapolle, Cobb and Hagar all had planned to vote by mail in some form, but due to issues, they all wound up physically completing ballots at polling locations in Pennsylvania.
This election year is pivotal for deciding the future direction of the United States and the issues that were at the top of voters’ minds encouraged them to take the time to vote.
“I am admittedly not the most politically engaged American there is, but I have seen the division that this country has dealt with for the past four years and I really just don’t think I can stomach another four years,” Cobb said. “I felt like it was my duty as a citizen of this country to go out and voice my opinions and stand up for what I believe in, which is wanting a leader for this country who has a strong moral compass and who is willing to fight for the things that I really care about — which would be environmental policy and social equality for everyone.”
Hagar said while voting, she thought of her friends who are a part of the LGBTQ community, and she is concerned about all the progress that was made being reversed.
“I am just hoping for big changes this year,” she said.
Anapolle said after voting, she drove home to Massachusetts. Anapolle and her mother will now be quarantining for 14 days away from the rest of their family as a precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic as Pennsylvania cases spike.
“The state of America today — there is a lot of conflict and people are very extreme in their opinions, and it seems people are getting farther and farther apart rather than closer,” Anapolle said. “If you think about it individual by individual, people are really going out of their way to better the United States.”