‘I think it’s unfair that my vote means less’: American first-time voters look back on U.S. elections

The U.S. presidential elections are well over a week behind us. For a lot of Americans, it was the first time they were able to vote. How did they follow these elections? Do they believe their vote made a difference? Two first-time voters reflect on their first presidential elections.

The 2020 U.S. presidential elections will go down as some of the most remarkable American elections in recent history. Democratic candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden was able to dethrone the incumbent president and Republican candidate Donald Trump. The election night turned into an election week, filled with allegations of corruption and rumors of widespread voter fraud.

These elections were also marked with the largest turnout ever recorded, with over 159 million Americans casting their vote. That does show a high level of political engagement, as you’re not obliged to vote in the United States. Two of them, along with many others, voted for the very first time: Nathaniel Greves (19), a Republican voter from Atlanta, Georgia – a key state – and Alyssa Wagner (19), a Democratic voter from California – the state with the most electoral votes (55 out of 538) look back on elections week.

How did you follow the elections?

News outlets are prime sources of information when it comes to elections results. However, major American news networks like CNN have noticed a slight drop in viewership. In addition, it is very well known that younger generations look for their source of information elsewhere, on social media for example.

What was the situation like where you live?

The tension before, during and after the elections was quite high as stores started to board up and officials feared multiple cases of violent protest across the country. Looking back, there were some minor cases of violence and protest, but excessively large crowds of demonstrators were nowhere to be seen.

Do you believe there was voter fraud?

One of the most talked about subject was the possibility of widespread voter fraud. According to President Trump, there were numerous cases of illegal ballots being cast throughout the country. The chant ‘stop the count’ was said an uncountable amount of times by President Trump, on Twitter, and his supporters. Lawsuits were filed left and right by the president’s legal team. How about the voters themselves, do they believe there has been widespread voter fraud?

Do you feel like your vote mattered?

During election night, there was the possibility that once again, like the 2016 presidential elections, a candidate would not win the popular vote but would win the elections. As it stands today, the U.S. uses a system called the Electoral College. Each state has a certain amount of electoral votes, based on the population (e.g. Texas has 38 electoral votes). If you have the most votes in a certain state, due to the winner-takes-all-principle, you win all of the state’s electoral votes. In order to win, a candidate needs a minimum of 270 votes out of a total of 538.

This system gives weight to the American vote. Some votes are more important, for example in Georgia, where the winner is very much undecided. A voter in California is less important, as the Democratic candidate is most likely to win here. Nathaniel voted in Georgia, a key or swing state, Alyssa voted in California, a Democratic or so-called ‘blue’ state. Do they believe their vote mattered?

On December 10 and 11, all states need to announce their official results. Until then, President Trump is still in his legal right to file lawsuits and demand recounts. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has already stated that ‘the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history’.

Text and video: Jarno Treuttens, picture: eskaden (CC BY-SA 2.0)