Growing Power of Our Vote

More than 150 million US citizens voted in the 2020 elections, including an estimated 53% of eligible 18 to 29-year-olds! While we wait for votes for this election cycle to be tallied, here are some STFers’ voting experiences:

Daisy Camarena: Carson HS ’17
Voter since 2020
It was my first year voting and I never thought I was going to experience it during a pandemic. When I received my ballot from the mail, I screamed! I was so excited to finally vote for the first time but for some reason I was scared. I was scared of messing up on my ballot and on the propositions. I made sure that this year I voted and my friends and family voted too. I made sure to vote for my parents’ rights, African-Americans’ rights, women’s rights, our environment, and basic human rights. If you ever feel scared or confused when voting, especially about the propositions in your state, ask for help and do your research. My siblings and I each researched a different proposition and then we decided whether each one benefited us. The fear then goes away once you turn in your ballot! You feel good and nervous at the same time because you don’t know what’s going to happen until Election Day.

Helen Cristobal: Santa Monica HS ’17
Voter since 2020
This was my first time voting by mail in Santa Monica, CA, and while it was not as exciting as I think voting in person will be, I knew the importance of sending my ballot early and am proud of taking part in civic action.

Iris Erwin: New Roads School ’20
Voter since 2020
I registered in Philadelphia, PA and requested a mail in ballot in September. I faced some complications not having a signature on record. It was so stressful not knowing if I was registered to vote. Ultimately it worked out and I was able to return my ballot at a drop off! It was pretty quick and easy.

Cooper Komatsu: Culver City HS ’20
Voter since 2020
As soon as I got my address at UChicago, I immediately cancelled my California pre-registration and got registered in Illinois, requesting a mail ballot. First, the California ballot (which I didn’t want) arrived at my house in LA, so I had my parents shred it. Then, I got my Illinois ballot in the mail, albeit slightly late. I was so excited to vote, so I went right to work. I knew my choice candidates for most major offices, but I had to do several hours of research for positions like Water Commissioner and 62 (!) judicial confirmations (all of which I did research on). When I was ready to turn in my ballot, I went to a poll location near me to drop my mail ballot off at a secure ballot box. That was quick and easy, although someone there asked me if I wanted to vote in person (using their voting machines) instead of by mail, which I thought was weird. After that, I was able to track the status of my ballot using the Chicago Board of Elections website, which I was thankful for! I’m very happy that I voted.

Anisah Moutra: Da Vinci Schools ’19
Voter since 2020
My experience voting by mail from Los Angeles, CA was a bit difficult and stressful. My university held a town hall where we learned about the propositions. I still had to take time to research because it was a lot to digest. It took me an entire day to sit down and vote, but it’s always important to be educated and to understand what you’re voting on.

Carolyn Stein: New Roads School ’19
Voter since 2020
My experience voting by mail from Palo Alto, CA was easy and quick! I’m likely to vote by mail again.

Josh Teichman: Santa Monica HS ’21
Voter since 2020
Although I didn’t get the experience of voting in person, my first time voting was exhilarating. I was very anxious when I was filling my ballot out, double and triple-checking that I completed everything correctly and signed my name perfectly. I felt the weight of how important it was to get my vote counted. I also felt a responsibility to do tons of research on the props and was surprised by the amount of cross-referencing and energy it took to come to the right decision. I thought it would be more clear cut i.e. that you vote one way based on your political party. I felt very patriotic when my ballot was dropped off in the ballot box.

Gowri Vadmal: Sierra Canyon School ’20
Voter since 2020
My experience voting in person in Los Angeles, CA was very good. There was no line and it was very sanitary.

Kleya Dhenin: Spring Intern ’19
Voter since 2018

My experience was great! Oregon makes voting by mail quick and easy. I had a vote by mail party with my mom on FaceTime and helped her vote.

Janelle Eley: Valencia HS ’18
Voter since 2018

I spent the summer doing non-partisan get out the vote phone banking across some of the swing states. My experience voting by mail was great! It was simple for me to fill out and I was able to track my ballot once I dropped it off at the mail ballot drop off location in my town in Santa Clarita Valley.

Ariam Negash: Santa Monica HS ’17
Voter since 2018

I dropped my ballot off at a voting box in Santa Monica, CA and it was very simple!

Darin Torres: Palisades Charter HS ’18
Voter since 2018

Voting by mail from Arcata, CA was simple and clean! I dropped it off at the ballot box. Post election, there have been protests by alt-right groups here in Northern California so I’m working with associates to raise awareness by contacting local news media and telling folks to be safe.

 Brennie Dale: Spring Intern ’20
Voter since 2016

I had a very difficult voting experience this year. I have moved a couple of times recently, so despite not receiving vote-by-mail ballots sent to my previous, current and permanent residences, my Registrar’s Office in Santa Rosa, CA said they legally could not print another ballot. They recommended I apply to receive my ballot using the Remote Accessible Vote by Mail (RAVBM) system. Nearly a month after my vote-by-mail ballot was sent out, it arrived at my current address in Fort Collins, CO. I let my Registrar’s Office know I voted on the vote-by-mail ballot, in fear that it would be voided by my request to use the RAVBM system. With it being so close to Election Day, I decided to mail my ballot to my mother using a private carrier to ensure it arrived in time. She dropped off my ballot directly at our Registrar’s Office. On Election Day, I noticed my ballot tracking had not updated to say it was “accepted”, so I made one more call to my Registrar’s Office who found my ballot in the “void” pile. They assured me my vote would have eventually been counted, but it would have taken much longer to process if I hadn’t called!
Sofia Weiss: Academy of the Canyons ’13
Voter since 2016

My family had a Zoom call to discuss each part of the ballot. We didn’t always agree, but it gave us a chance to review and debate each issue. I mailed my ballot from San Francisco, CA. It was nerve wracking to wait for the BallotTrax confirmation email!

Rachel Kiekhofer: Santa Monica HS ’14
Voter since 2014

My experience voting by mail from Oakland, CA was uneventful. I walked to the ballot drop box and dropped it off!

Nancy Nazarian Medina: STF Program Advisor
Voter since 1992

Going through the ballot it was a great experience to discuss the various propositions with my sons and husband and make it a family affair. This was the first time I did mail in ballot. I missed seeing neighbors at the polls in Canyon Country but this was a safe and efficient way to participate in democracy!

We congratulate all STF alumni who voted in this election and celebrate our first time voters!

Ever onward,
The STF Team

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