Election Day dawned bright and cold last Tuesday as voters made their way through the snow to the polls at the Town of Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department. Although there was a record increase in mail-in ballots in Vermont this year due to the pandemic, many voters still cast their vote in person. In Middlebury, total voter turnout hit an all-time high of 4,368 votes, surpassing the previous record set in 2016 by more than 600 ballots.
“We were going to vote by mail or use the drop box, but when President Trump’s tactic appeared to be one of voter suppression rather than reaching out to all Americans, we were adamant that we would come today,” freelance writer Gaen Murphee said.
Beyond these concerns, some voters chose to brave the cold for other reasons. Nicky Johnson ’22 said that she wanted to have the experience of voting in person. Similarly, Emily Vivanco ’23 expressed that voting in person brings greater satisfaction. Although many voters said that they considered voting absentee, they were confident in the safety precautions at the polls on Tuesday.
“People are a lot more fired up [compared to the 2016 elections],” Sophie Clark ’21 said. “This year, people are taking [the election] really seriously and are excited to get out and vote — and get their friends to vote.”
Despite the enthusiasm about being able to vote, several individuals expressed some disappointment about the limited options on the ballot.
“I just don’t like the two-party system,” first-time voter Aidan Mattingly ’22 said. Mattingly mentioned that he originally considered voting third party. Expressing a similar sentiment, Roodharvens Joseph ’22 said that he wished that there was someone else on the ballot to support. “But, it’s about unity now,” Joseph said.
Voters described a wide range of issues that impacted the choices that they made this year. Murphee cited justice, the rule of law and the continuation of U.S. democracy. Middlebury resident Chelsey Lattrell said that change was necessary, mentioning human rights as her main concern. “I don’t want to vote for anybody that’s not denouncing racism,” Joseph said.
Several voters mentioned the response to the pandemic, including Clark, who also enumerated issues including women’s rights and racial inequality. “It’s just so embarrassing the way that America has handled [the pandemic],” she said. Vivanco echoed Clark’s sentiments. “The pandemic really drives home the urgency of a new government,” she said.
That urgency was palpable on Tuesday morning as bundled-up voters exited the polls with “I Voted” stickers and the knowledge that they were a part of democracy in action.
Acadia Klepeis ’24 is an Arts & Culture Editor. She is planning to major in English Literature and minor in French. On campus, Cadi has also been involved with the SGA First-Year Committee and the French club. This fall, she will be completing an internship with a Vermont-based publisher that specializes in books about Asia. Before coming to Middlebury, Cadi took a gap year to be an exchange student in Switzerland through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.