The Voice of the People

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By Maggie Heenan, Staff Writer

Over the past several months, tensions within the US and, really all over the world, have been rising in preparation for the 2020 presidential election. Vast numbers of voters, young and old, have banded together–online, in person, and over social media– in a multi-generational effort to encourage people all over the country to vote. These collaborative efforts made by countless Americans did not go unnoticed with a total of over 99 million Americans having voted early as of November 2nd and an overwhelming number of people voting for the first time in their lives this year. So, the question begs to be asked: Is voting in 2020 really more important than voting in past elections, and why? 

In the days precursing the election, while nearly every American citizen counted the minutes and sat on the edge of their chair, grasping onto their last bit of optimism, a few voters were willing to give their opinions on the upcoming events, and two first-time voters shared their experience of what voting in 2020 really felt like. 

“Voting in 2020 is so important because of the way the President [Trump] creates division with language and has given a green light for intolerance and hatred and misogyny,” says Monique Heenan, 48, a seasoned voter of the Hudson Valley. This feeling that it’s more important to get President Trump out of office rather than get Joe Biden into office, is a common one. 

From his blatant anti-semitic and stereotyping comments towards Jewish people to his refusal to denounce white supremacy in the first presidential debate, Donald Trump has most definitely created a place for hatred and ignorance in this country. According to an FBI report, reported hate crime incidents rose 5% in 2016 from 2015 and increased another 17% in 2017. The majority of these attacks had a racial motivation at 59.6%, followed by 20.6% with religious motivation, and sexual orientation motivated crimes at 15.8%. 

Trump’s crude language and unwillingness to hide his ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., has ignited a flame in the hearts of intolerant people in this country. He has emboldened hateful groups such as the proud boys telling them in the first presidential debate to “Stand back and stand by.”. 

This kind of issue is something that a lot of voters have had their minds on these past months, specifically younger voters. 

In the eyes of Stella Baird, a fierce, 19-year old, first-time voter from upstate New York, voting in this election is more important due to the social issues that we faced in America. The Black Lives Matter movement and the incredulous police brutality against black people was on her mind along with the threats to women’s Reproductive Rights created by the recent swearing in of new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

“We need to do our best as American citizens to counteract that kind of thing,” says Stella, after discussing our country’s problems with racism and misogyny that have been spiked by Trump. “I don’t think our country can handle another 4 years of Trump, he’s just so destructive,” she said. 

Especially within the past month or so with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September and the confirmation and swearing-in of new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney

Barrett in October, women across the country have been forced to consider their rights and what is being threatened, especially regarding which candidate they vote for. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. 

18-year-old former NPHS student, Azalea Rusillon, dressed up as a suffragette to go vote. Complete with the whole sash, hat, gloves, and full 20th-century garb (oh, and of course, a mask!) Azalea took advantage of her constitutional right for the first time in her life. Despite her modest confidence that the candidate of her choice, Joe Biden, would win, she still urged people to vote and spoke about the issue of not voting: “It can be excused in past elections, less serious ones, but in the 2020 election… how can you not vote when so much is at stake?” 

Azalea Rusillion, NPHS Class of 2020, voting dressed as a suffragette

It seems to be but the American people realize the importance of voting in this election, with a voter turnout so far, of over 150 million people. Recently announced President-elect Joe Biden, has also received the most votes of any presidential candidate in US history with 77 million votes and 50.8% of the total votes. Certain states have turned blue for the first time in many years, such as Arizona, which voted blue for the first time since 1996, and the projected to end up blue, Georgia, which was last blue in the 1992 election 

With the newly announced results of the election, people all over the country feel like they can finally breathe after holding their breath for so long. 

Stella, the 19-year-old first-time voter, feels absolutely relieved by the results of the election and proud to have done her part in it, saying “Obviously there’s still so much work left to be done, but this is a big step in the right direction. Also to have our first female vice president is so historic and I’m thrilled about that!” These words are so wise and realistic as if there is one thing that is true about this election is that it is majorly historic and will never be forgotten.

Featured Photo: Andrew Harnik, NY Post