After months of campaigning, members of the University community had the opportunity to vote at the polls in a historic election between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
LetsVoteNova, an on-campus initiative to increase the amount of student voters at the University, provided shuttles to and from polling locations in the area. On the shuttles, seats were marked that were acceptable to sit in, and masks were required.
On my way to St. Mary’s Church, my voting location, there were only five other voters on the bus, which ran back to school every 30 minutes.
Upon arriving, a woman approached everyone that got off the bus, asking for our name, which way we were leaning, and if any of our friends had not voted yet. This was a way to gauge public opinion but in no way was a response required.
Waiting to get into the church, students were split based on last names into “A-L” and “M-Z” lines. There was tape marking where to stand and each side was lined with lawn signs, either brought by the Radnor Democrats, or by Republicans, who had a “God Bless America” and “Back the Blue” sign in addition to candidate signs.
People walked around handing out sample ballots and explaining what the ballot needed. There was also a poll watcher who walked around with a “voter protection” lanyard ensuring that there was not any voter intimidation or suppression.
She remarked that she was there “in case of any trouble.”
The only sense of ruckus while waiting to go into the building was a Mini Cooper zooming down the street with Trump flags sticking out of the sides.
Upon entering the church, we had to wait in a narrow hallway with roughly 20 other voters until we could enter the polling station. While outside everything was spread apart, that was foregone in the hall, where the line wrapped around each wall. Instead of a cohesive system, people were filtering in from a door in the middle of the line as well, disrupting the system.
To make matters more complex, every few moments, poll workers were calling out certain letters to get out of the line and enter the polling area. It did not make a lot of sense, and a few people were worried that they were not on a line at all because it would not move for lengths of time while others were moving steadily.
One voter commented that while waiting to go in, the lady next to him was on the phone getting her COVID-19 test results - another jolting reminder of the ongoing pandemic voters faced during the election.
Since it was my first time voting in this area, I had to provide my photo ID. Once I signed the book and received my ballot, I was quickly able to fill it out and enter it into the machine to get scanned.
While Pennsylvania used to use polling machines, a recent reversal was made so that only paper ballots are used. This will ensure a paper trail of ballots but leads to some people having to redo their ballots due to complications.
Right before leaving, I noticed the poll workers talking and on the phone, because the polling location seemed to run out of provisional ballots, or perhaps never had them. Provisional ballots can be given to anyone whose registration cannot be confirmed, so this problem had to quickly be corrected with a call to the Board of Elections.
While waiting for the bus to bring us back to campus, students had one more rousing interaction: a pickup truck honking driving down the street with more Trump flags, this time reading “Women for Trump.”
With that, our bus pulled up, and our voting experience was complete. From bus dropoff at the Church to picking us up to go back to campus, it was roughly an hour, so an hour and a half excursion in total. Not too lengthy in comparison to major cities, where voters could have been waiting for hours.