First-time voters share importance of voting before Nov. 3 election

Voter poses with her vote sticker after casting her ballot during early voting for the general election. (Courtesy Tribune News Service)

With election season in full swing, taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 3, several Fresno State students have submitted their ballots and have chosen their presidential candidate for the very first time. 

Although a number of propositions will be placed on the 2020 ballot, it seems the main area of focus for these students are the presidential nominees: President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Meng Thao, a senior at Fresno State majoring in child development and family science, recently submitted his 2020 ballot through mail on Oct. 9. Thao, who just received his U.S. citizenship this year in February, doesn’t consider himself to be politically outspoken. 

Instead, the Thailand native likes to talk with friends and family about his opinion and thinks of himself as politically conscious. 

He also considers himself a Democrat and decided to vote for Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris in the upcoming election. When asked why, Thao was more than willing to highlight his choice and stated that he shares the same values and beliefs as the Democratic Party. 

Ashley Glougie, a business major at Fresno State with an interest in management, has experienced the voting process once before; however, this will be her very first presidential election. Although Glougie chose not to reveal her vote, she does explain that voting is very important, and a person’s participation in the election process could be a potential game changer. 

“Even if you are the minority, I feel like it is still important to vote because you never know if your one single vote could push your state into a certain color,” Glougie said. “I think it’s really, really important because that is you on paper, voicing out what you want America to do for you.” 

On Aug. 17, the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) at Fresno State joined other colleges and universities throughout California in Ballot Bowl, a competition which aims to register the most first-time voters within a particular student body.

According to Elizabeth Rocha Zuñiga, newly elected ASI president, Fresno State has accumulated 1,200 registered students thus far, and the competition will run until Election Day. 

“I am a firm believer in our democratic process,” Zuñiga said via email. “I think that everyone who can, should vote. This is one way that we can ensure that our voices are being heard.” 

Zuñiga also mentioned that voters are not only voicing their political opinions on officials, but they are also voting for their local government, representatives and state propositions as well. 

“These people directly impact the change you wish to see in your community,” she said. “Whether it be addressing crime, education, sustainability, safety, we all have opinions, and the best way to reflect what we stand for is voting.”

Moses Tavarez, a junior psychology major at Fresno State, submitted his mail-in ballot last week and now believes, unlike before, that his vote absolutely matters. 

“This time, however, I felt like it was important, really important, that I had to cast my vote and it had to be someone other than [President] Trump,” Tavarez said. “Even though my vote wasn’t as significant, or that my play in the matter wouldn’t be as significant as compared to thousands of others. I still felt the urge, the requirement to do it.” 

While speaking with Tavarez, the 27-year-old registered voter sounded as if he just experienced his political awakening. According to him, he is now aware of what matters and understands politics from a broader perspective. He also mentioned that he is now witnessing today’s youth become even more politically active than ever before. 

Tavarez also spoke on the importance of voting, and when asked about those currently on the fence when it comes to casting a ballot, Tavarez said, “This vote matters. This vote is an important decision.” 

According to The Fresno Bee, 166,478 ballots have returned, which makes this a record for the number of ballots submitted for a presidential election. The previous election only had 132,760 absentee ballots returned, according to the Fresno County Registrar of Voters via The Bee. 

The deadline to submit an absentee ballot at an official drop box is Nov. 3 by 8 p.m. The same deadline applies if voters want to return a ballot at a local polling station, according to the California Secretary of State website. Information on locating an official polling station can be found here by entering a home address. Upon doing so, the nearest polling station will be shown. 

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