Lehigh students and Bethlehem residents voted at four polling locations in the Nov. 8 midterm election. Voters will elect a new US Senator, House representative, governor and state senator.

Lehigh students, Bethlehem residents join crucial midterm action at polls


Lehigh students and Bethlehem residents cast their votes at one of four local polling locations in the Nov. 8 midterm election. These voters will elect a new U.S. senator, Pennsylvania’s next governor, a representative in the House and a state senator.

Pennsylvania is widely understood to be a crucial battleground state in the national fight for both chambers of Congress. Many counties comprising the Lehigh Valley are also known as bellwether counties, which tend to be indicators in national elections. 

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Broughal Middle School, the Banana Factory and St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church saw a stream of voters over the course of the day, beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. 

Bethlehem resident Maryellen Borghi said whether or not she would vote in the midterm elections was never a question. She came to the Banana Factory with concerns about access to abortions and gun control.

A registered independent voter, Borghi said she feels strongly that while the economy and employment are important, her 10-year-old granddaughter’s ability to maintain the right to her own body matters more. 

“My granddaughter has less rights to her own body than my dead mother did,” Borghi said. 

Beside Borghi stood Precious Watson, who cast her first ballot in Pennsylvania today after living in Bethlehem for six years. Previously, she had only voted twice, once in 2008 and again in 2012. 

The two women said they were encouraged to see Lehigh students at the polls, describing the generation of students as “awesome” for voting. Having never waited in a line to vote for so long, Borghi said she was glad to see this level of turnout. 

Reed Thompson, ‘24, said casting his vote was worth his 30-minute wait at the Banana Factory. 

The Banana Factory saw the longest wait times of the four locations throughout the day, with some voters standing in line for over an hour and a half. The lines at Broughal Middle School and both churches remained consistently short due to a lower turnout. 

“I had a great time,” Thompson said. “It’s a beautiful day, we have school off, so there’s nothing really else to do (but vote).” 

Borghi said it is responsible for students in Pennsylvania to register to vote here, as opposed to their home states, because of the impact their voices have here. 

Watson said she never thought about voting after high school or when she got older. Now, as a mother of two teenagers, she said she wants to change their perspective and prepare them. 

“I’m trying to tell (my kids) these are the things you need to do to make things better,” Watson said. “At first I thought, ‘I am not standing in this line. I’m not going to vote, I’m going home.’ But, here I am.”

Chloe Koehler, ‘22 ‘23G, and Claire Gatermann, ‘23, voted together at St. John’s on East Fourth Street. Both students said they chose to register to vote in Pennsylvania because of the influence they could have on policy-makers to help the Bethlehem community. 

Koehler said since she spends the majority of her time in Bethlehem instead of her home state of New Jersey, it made more sense for her to vote here. 

“It’s important to vote to have an impact on your community,” Koehler said. “Especially because Pennsylvania is a swing state,” Gatermann added. 

Originally from Chicago, 21-year-old Gatermann said she feels voting at a young age sets a precedent for future generations.  

Koehler and Gatermann said all their friends cast votes, and both agree most other Lehigh students are using Election Day for productive purposes.

In hopes of helping students become more civically involved, Lehigh Votes, a student organization, planned events and posted information regarding the election on social media. 

Alyssa Milrod, ‘23, spent her day canvassing in Farrington Square on behalf of Lehigh Votes, urging people to vote, regardless of who they planned to vote for. She distributed informational flyers while helping people find their polling location via a QR code. 

She said she hoped to engage people politically and explained while some students are passionate and educated on the subject while others have less excitement and knowledge. 

She said today’s midterm election was more anticipated than other non-presidential elections.  

Milrod said, when asked if they had voted, most people told her they moved their registration to Pennsylvania from elsewhere. 

“They have more of a deciding vote here than in their hometowns,” Milrod said. “It’s very unique that we have this opportunity to register in a state where we can have more power to vote than in our hometowns.”

Some students chose to remain registered in their hometowns, however. Although she is from Pennsylvania, Jill Hackett, ‘26, voted for the first time by casting a mail-in ballot to Fort Washington. 

Hackett said if she had not been able to receive a mail-in ballot, she would have attended the polls at home. 

“(I am) more familiar with legislation at home, and it’s still in Pennsylvania, and still a swing state,” Hackett said, regarding her decision. 

Bethlehem resident and election volunteer John Dickson spent his day working the polls at Broughal. Located just one block from Lehigh’s campus, the polling location saw a large turnout of student voters alongside residents. 

Having worked the polls once before during the primary election, Dickson said this turnout was much higher than what he saw then. He said the middle school remained busy throughout the day, with at least a few voters waiting at a time. 

He said it makes sense for students to vote in Pennsylvania, both for convenience and to maximize the weight of their vote. 

Dickson said he prefers voting in person, so he understands this appeal for students. 

He said local elections are where all policy-making should originate as he urged residents to vote. 

Dickson warned against ignoring local elections because he said this allows too many decisions to be made in Washington on behalf of states. He said if people overlook the importance of local politics, they will lose their power. 

“We are supposed to be governed locally, and the last place is the president,” Dickson said. “That is not the starting place. The local election is where everything should be happening. It shouldn’t even matter who the president is for the people in Bethlehem.” 

As a South Side resident, Dickson said he loves the Bethlehem area because it evokes memories of his hometown, a small steel town near Pittsburgh. He said the SteelStacks’ presence on the South Side acts as a reminder to stay nimble and forward-looking, inspiring the city. 

Dickson said he moved to Bethlehem to be in between New York City and Washington, D.C., two cities he frequents while working closely with the United Nations Department of Global Communication. 

Before moving to Bethlehem, he said he would speak to young interns working in the United Nations office, many of which were Lehigh students themselves. 

“Lehigh has an impact, a global impact,” Dickson said. “That’s impressive.”

Borghi said she remains hopeful for Bethlehem’s future, in part due to student voters.  

“It’s you guys that are going to change what’s going on,” Borghi said. “It’s not us, and not even the elder people. It’s you guys.”

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