I think everyone can agree that 2020 has truly been one of the craziest years in modern U.S. history. So it comes as no shock that the 2020 presidential election has also been completely unique and unexpected in its own right.
On November 3rd, 2020, I’m waking up at 5:30 am in anticipation for my trip into Boston’s Chinatown to cast my vote. I expected long lines ahead of me, and plenty of waiting. I woke up early, wanting to beat the initial wave of voters that I figured would occur later in the morning. I got ready in my Salem apartment, stopped by a gas station to grab a water, and then called my Uber.
The ride into Boston wasn’t as frightful as I was expecting. I had seen TikToks and videos of boarded up stores and buildings in the city, but as I crept closer into Boston it wasn’t nearly as scary as anticipated. There were a few boarded up stores I saw here and there, which was understandable considering the historically high stakes this election was riding on.
My Uber driver drove me right up to the street where my polling station was located, the Wang YMCA of Chinatown, and sure enough a long line was awaiting me. Even at my 7:15 am arrival, only a quarter after opening, there was a line that stretched all the way to the back of the building. The driver stopped the car in disbelief and turned to ask me if I was voting. I answered yes, and he enthusiastically wished me luck.
With that, I hopped out and made my way to the back of the line. It was a pretty chilly day in Boston, so I made sure to bundle up in a winter jacket and 2 sets of pants. In hindsight I’m glad I did, I commend people in colder states who waited outside for hours in cold. Luckily my line was moving rather quickly, and it did make me feel safe having social distancing markers between every voter. People made a point not to stand too close and to give each person their own room. Poll workers were putting down markers even further apart while the line was still moving.
After about half an hour, I’ve made it inside the building. The poll workers are kindly guiding voters into the Wang YMCA gymnasium, where more workers await to sort out voters by residential streets. I go to my respective line and they find my name on a long list of registered voters, before handing me my ballot and sending me to an open voting station. After I’ve completed my ballot, I move over to the scanned station where a machine accepts my long paper and a poll worker is waiting, stickers in hand.
The “I voted” sticker is an informal conclusion to everyone’s voting experience of the day. I mutter a thanks and receive my sticker gladly. I was expecting a lot more tension going in to vote in Boston, but the experience was resoundingly positive. My voting line, though long, moved rather quickly and poll workers were polite and encouraging all throughout.
As I exited the YMCA I spot a group of people on the corner of the street holding up “Vote YES on 2” signs. I walk past them and they talk to me briefly. They ask how my day is going and I briefly talked with them about my experience. I show them my I voted sticker as I continue walking and there’s a unified cheer among the group.
My experience in Boston was actually pretty pleasant. There wasn’t any unrest or tension, just a bunch of people exercising their civic right that really wasn’t that much of a big deal. The streets were busy with people going on their way to work or in the middle of running errands. The world continued on around the line of voters like it was just another day. Tuft’s was right at the end of the street and I could spot nurses and student’s shuffling from one direction to the next. If I felt any worry or concern before arriving to my polling station, it definitely evaporated as soon as I was in line. Looking back on this experience, it felt really good to have my voice heard and to be able to contribute in any way I could.