To call this election historic is an understatement. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 98.9 million Americans have already voted, about 71 percent of the 139 million votes cast in 2016.
For many Americans, this was the first time they voted by mail, dropped their ballot into a secure drop box, wore a mask while voting or tracked their ballot like a package. And then there are those Americans who voted for the first time — ever.
The Washington Post asked readers what was going through their minds as they voted and where they hope to see the country go next. Here’s what they had to say.
How did it feel to cast your ballot this year?
18 • Sacramento
“It was thrilling! 2020 marks my first election, since I only turned 18 in September. While I had been looking forward to going to the neighborhood polling center, waiting in line to make my voice heard and normal excitement around it being my first time, it felt just as rewarding to seal the envelope and send it through the mail. I know I live in a state where my vote won’t make as big of a change … but it still feels like a moment I’ll remember until my grandchildren ask me about the historic 2020 election.”
70 • Tucson
“I felt like I was making a difference when I cast my vote by mail … and did a little happy dance when the online ballot tracker for my county showed that it had been counted.”
49 • Albuquerque
“Overwhelmingly necessary. I have never felt so divided from friends or co-workers behind politics in my 49 years. I want to see the country led with compassion, care for others and for the environment.”
67 • Indiana
“I do not think my fears will be alleviated on Election Day; I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when Biden is inaugurated. I left the Republican Party early in the Obama administration due to the Republican Party’s blatantly racist reaction to Obama. I have yet to declare myself a Democrat, but I have voted straight Democratic, or perhaps I should say straight anti-Republican, ever since. I became an activist in response to the election of Trump, and regardless of the outcome of the ongoing election, I shall remain an activist.”
64 • Sacramento
“I am terrified of a Biden-Harris ticket. It could ruin the country at the expense of those who have worked hard and followed the rules. Sure, many of those who have scammed the system would also pay, but it would hit the hard-working, fair-minded the worst. It would ruin our chance to set back China and restore domestic manufacturing. It would degrade the quality of life through immigration, leading to overpopulation and depressed wages. Division would worsen under Biden. You have heard this before: I don’t like Trump as a person, but I like his administration’s policies and I dislike the sometimes self-righteous fakery of the left.”
38 • Watertown, Wis.
“I am 38, and this year was my first time voting. I have never voted before because I believe the election system is fundamentally flawed and does not uphold what our election is supposed to be. A government for the people by the people (not the electorals). But this election is too important to skip despite my distaste for the system.”
56 • Selma, N.C.
“This is the first time I’ve ever voted against my party. Three hundred thirty million citizens, and these two are the best presidential candidates they could get? If the Republicans had nominated someone other than President Trump, I wouldn’t have voted for Biden.”
48 • Leonard, Tex.
“Felt amazing to be voting for President Trump again! [I want the country to] become stronger economically, more patriotic and [have a] stronger military.”
54 • Waynesboro, Va.
“This year I voted by mail. It was a frustrating election because I didn’t really like either candidate. My first inclination was to just skip voting this year for the first time ever. But as I thought more about it, I decided I needed to vote, not for a candidate, but for the country I want to see in the future.”
20 • Johnson City, N.Y.
“Casting a vote this year felt bittersweet. Bitter, because Biden was not my first choice by any means and would’ve been much prouder voting for Bernie and sweet, because I got to vote against Trump and get to cast my first vote for a president. I know they say every time ‘this is the most important election of our lives’ but I do believe that is particularly true this year.”
68 • Ormond Beach, Fla.
“I had been a Republican voter most my life. Now with no party affiliation, I have voted for a Democrat for president of the United States for the first time ever. This madness must stop.”
18 • Canton, Ohio
“I just turned 18 in March, so this was the first general election I’ve been able to vote in. I feel like my vote really matters this year. I’m a part of real history right now, and that’s something special. We’ve been begged to vote for the past two years, so it was good to finally answer the call.”
Cindy Van Donselaar
42 • Pella, Iowa
“I’ve never been more nervous about the outcome and also more important that I exercise my right to vote. I live in a small district and in previous years the polling location had an air of excitement and celebration and a chance to catch up with your neighbors. This year felt more somber. Not just because people generally didn’t feel safe talking with friends and neighbors afterwards but because it feels like we are so divided. I have also never seen precautions for unrest in election day. It is somewhat alarming.”
“We have got to figure out how to work together to move forward. Our politicians are consistently choosing partisanship and doing what is right for the party rather than the country. We need our leaders to be prepared to put the future in our country rather than our party.”
22 • State College, Pa.
“As a second-time voter in a presidential election, this time felt much more overwhelming. I cried as I dropped my ballot into the ballot box due to a huge build up of emotions like stress and fear for our future.”
Where do you want to see the country go after 2020?
19 • Hillsborough, N.C.
“As radically far left as we can push it — UBI, universal health care, free food for the hungry, free homes for the homeless. There’s no reason for people to suffer when we have the resources to help them. I want to see a return to science and for us to take action against climate change and to handle this pandemic with clarity and safety rather than sacrificing people to make a few extra bucks for the billionaires. It feels like people have forgotten compassion. I’d like us to remember.”
42 • Burlison, Tenn.
“I couldn’t wait until the first day of early voting started in Tennessee. For the first time, I felt that if I didn’t voice my opinion through this ballot that the future of our nation would be lost. Everyone is divided. I want to see people come together. People are so divided right now that whomever wins will have their hands full.”
66 • Newport, R.I.
“Greater fairness, less racism, less income inequality, less oligarchy, more democracy, and a determined, science-driven effort against the spread of the coronavirus.”
23 • Seattle, WA
“I’d like to live in a country that addresses its failures by providing truly affordable universal health care, engaging in real criminal justice and police reform, and pursuing a climate policy that creates jobs through protecting the planet, rather than destroying it. Also, high-speed rail.”
45 • Apex, N.C.
“I want to move away from so much hatred division and anger. I want the U.S. to be the leader of the world for our future generations.”
88 • Rutherford, N.J.
“I voted like my life depended on it. After 2020, the first thing I want to see is this pandemic come under control, that a vaccine will be discovered. Then I want to see a government that functions for the welfare of all the people instead of one that just looks out for themselves.”