The COVID-19 pandemic has been steadily changing the way that people live their lives this year, and the situation has created a precedent that will remain for years to come. As 2020 beckoned in another presidential election, Americans were determined to continue to exercise their right to vote while still staying safe. In order to do so, many Americans cast absentee ballots causing them to rise in popularity this year. The 2020 election has had the highest voter turnout in the last 120 years. In the state of Maine, we have reached an astounding amount of absentee votes— approximately 277,000.
The University of Maine community sent in countless absentee votes over the past couple of weeks, with many students having different reasons for doing so. Morgan Rocks, a third-year animal and veterinary science student , shared her reason for voting absentee.
“I chose to vote absentee this year because I wanted to avoid the chaos that was going to be the in-person polls on Election Day,” Rocks explained. “While COVID-19 played a minor role in making this decision, I also made this choice because it gave me time to analyze my ballot and really finalize who I wanted to vote for in the comfort of my home. I do feel that this was much easier than trying to navigate the in-person polls since all I had to do was submit a request online for my ballot, fill it out and turn it in.”
Even though Rocks didn’t attend in-person voting, she didn’t think submitting an absentee ballot was any less exciting than getting to vote in person.
“I actually went and dropped my ballot off at the town hall instead of mailing it back. When I got to drop it in the box it made me feel just as important,” Rocks continued. “Regardless of how people voted, I feel like it should always be exciting since this was an opportunity for a lot of us to vote for the very first time in a presidential election. This was the first time our voices could actually be heard on a nationwide scale.”
Others shared Rock’s enthusiasm for being a first-time voter, including third-year marine biology student Sam Burgess.
“I did early voting at the field house,” Burgess said. “I wanted to make sure I voted on time, and I know most people wouldn’t be at the field house a month early. This was my first time being able to vote in a general election, so I wanted to guarantee it counted.”
The rush of absentee ballots raises concerns about the capability of the postal service to make sure that ballots arrive on time. The surge in these absentee votes has caused some key battleground and swing states to slow down when it comes to tallying, but all votes will be counted in the coming days. In Maine alone, absentee ballots far surpassed that of the 2016 election, which only had 258,000 absentee votes cast. As the polls close, students and staff alike can be proud of the UMaine community for casting their ballots and participating in the democratic process during this historic election.