My first time voting - 2020 Election Edition

This year, the 2020 Presidential election marked the first time I have ever voted since I became of age. I thought it would be life changing, since there has been so much strain and importance put on this specific election. It was definitely not life changing but it was definitely interesting.

 

Before heading to the voting center for my area, my mom and I stopped for some much needed coffee at a local coffee shop nearby. Just a day before I was in this exact same coffee shop, eavesdropping on the baristas as they were chatting about how early voting was going in our state. The things they said worried me a bit, long lines and even longer waits. One barista said their friend waited for five hours, another said someone they knew was surrounded by hostile voters. This made me super nervous. I didn’t want my first voting experience to be shrouded in hate or prejudice and I definitely didn’t want to wait in line for five hours. 

 

Thankfully, after grabbing our coffee and heading the short distance to a library turned voting center, my mom and I were early. Like, an hour and some change early. The line wasn’t very long and the people in front of us were friendly – a small, Latin family consisting of a father, a mother and two daughters. They were really sweet and I enjoyed their presence. Everything was going perfectly fine. It was chilly, sure, but my mother and I had our coffees to warm us up and we had been standing for not that long when another group of people came behind us in line.

 

My mother and I thought nothing of it, we smiled and carried on our conversation with one another until the group behind us began to speak. A member of the Democratic Party came up to us and offered us a ballot sheet of all the candidates running in the party. Everyone ahead of us accepted one; the people behind us, however, did not. They rejected the ballot rather obnoxiously and began to converse about guns and shooting rather loudly. It was a weird turn of events. Until they were offered a Democratic ballot sheet, they had been conversing rather quietly and minding their own business. 

 

Their obnoxious chatter lasted all the way until my mother and I got inside to vote. They said a lot of triggering things and I could tell that not only did it bother my mother and I but it also bothered a lot of the families in front of us. By the time we were five people away from entering the library, I was done with the group behind us. I didn’t want to hear anymore about their guns or their fancy trips to Germany or all places, or the fact that every few minutes they would make a comment about how Trump was going to win and no one should bother voting because he was a shoo-in. It was super uncomfortable to listen to and every few seconds, someone would scoff in line or glare at them incredulously. 

 

I found myself whispering to my mother on multiple occasions, mocking them or speaking in disbelief over the things they were saying and each time my mom told me to either keep my voice down or hinted for me to be quiet. I think one of the members of the group noticed my whispering because she tapped me on the shoulder, looked me up and down and proceeded to tell me how beautiful my hair was. It was odd and I wasn’t quite sure how to take it. I just smiled, uttered a thanks and turned back around – until she told me that my hair looked happy. That’s when I realized she may or may not have been mocking me. My hair was in its natural form, kinky and coily and dyed a kind of blonde, with my roots shining through on top. All in all, I didn’t think my hair “looked happy.” It was hair. Not to mention, whenever a non woman of color compliments me on my hair, I feel as though I am on display and it’s both unsettling and flattering at the same time. 

 

In this situation. I just pushed aside how uncomfortable I was, flashed her a smile and looked ahead. But that conversation played in my head over and over. When I walked into the library, when I got my ballot, even when I was voting. I don’t know why but it stuck with me. I didn’t think my voting experience would entail that. I might be over exaggerating and being extra sensitive toward how non people of color approach me and interact with me at this time but this whole experience made me think. 

 

How is November 4th going to go? What will our country look like next month when the votes are counted? More importantly, how will we look socially? Racial tensions are at an all time high and no one knows when another riot or instance of police brutality will send our country spiraling once again. 

 

I hope my experience of my first time voting helps you think in some way about how you want our country to look on November 4th. I also hope that it urges you to vote no matter what! If you want change, you have to manifest and work toward it!