Kayla Butler ’24 was struggling to find a conversation on campus that wasn’t about the election. Jonah Helmer ’22 didn’t watch the news on election night. For Beaux Miebach ’21, the presidential race was a referendum on whether to live in the U.S. after graduation. Cosimo Fabrizio ’22 made a 16-hour round trip home to vote.
The Sun spoke with students throughout the week, who shared their experiences living through the historic election. In their own words, here are their stories. The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Cosimo Fabrizio ’22: ‘I had no qualms about making this 16-hour round trip to Jersey to stand in line and vote’
My absentee ballot got messed up, so I drove back to Jersey last night, was in line to vote at 5:30 a.m. and drove back this morning to make an 11:30 a.m. exam. It’s been a hell of a 24 hours.
My brother and my sister both got their ballots — which is strange because I am registered to vote in New Jersey but still didn’t get one. I tried calling my state’s voter hotline which told me to call my county. Tried the county office a couple of times but never heard anything back. Yesterday I accepted it wasn’t going to work itself out, but there was no chance that I wasn’t voting. So my pops drove up from Jersey, I drove back down, finished voting around 6:30 a.m. and drove back up again in time to catch an 11:30 a.m. exam.
I come from an immigrant family in North Jersey. My dad side’s Italian, my ma’s is Grenadian. It’s a very liberal area where most people will vote for whoever the Democrat is. I don’t vote for parties, I vote for people, and this election I had no doubts about voting for Joe Biden, even though I have my criticisms of him and the DNC establishment. Donald Trump in my eyes is the antithesis of what I believe in, what I value in the American spirit, and has been a disgustingly destructive force to our nation and to humanity. That’s why I had no qualms about making this 16-hour round trip to Jersey to stand in line and vote.
I pray to God that whatever happens with the election, we’re able to have a peaceful transition of power. But, when I’m watching people talk about it on TV, I see how easy it is for people to forget what’s at stake. People are struggling out here, grieving because they’re losing family members to COVID, stressing out while they wait to hear if more stimulus checks are going to come so they can put food on the table, just dealing with things that feel so beyond their control. As a country, we need to understand that this election added another deep layer of stress and uncertainty to a time that has become overwhelming for many. The compounding effect of Trump versus Biden, COVID-19, a recession, its created a lot of hopelessness. We so clearly need change and I’m hoping that this election moves us a step closer to that change.
Jonah Helmer ’22: ‘I want to get our society on track to have a more equitable and better climate future’
I only had one class today, a climate change class. The election has been very relevant for this class. We have talked a lot about increasing anxiety levels, and we even started the class off today with a question from our professor about how people are doing. During the election week, they have been giving a little bit of slack in this class to take some more time for ourselves.
I’m not watching coverage right now. I have seen snippets of it. I’m under the mindset that there’s no point of me watching coverage tonight, because we’re not necessarily going to know for sure until a few days, if not a week. I feel no need to increase my anxiety levels like that.
In the lead up to this election, I’ve gotten a lot of my information from reading The New York Times. But truly, I didn’t need any information. I had my mind made up four years ago, really, when Donald Trump was elected. I knew that I wanted to vote him out of office, because my main issue is the environment. The loosening of regulations for environmental protection is disheartening to me.
I know Joe Biden isn’t a perfect candidate. We need someone who’s going to disrupt the status quo, and ultimately I don’t think either candidate in this election will be able to do that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to vote. The bottom line is, I want to get our society on track to have a more equitable and better climate future. I’m very passionate about the environment and sustainability and nutrition and increasing access to low-income populations for fresh produce.
Especially taking this climate change class, I’ve come to realize the true dire state of our world and the drastic action that is needed to take place to get us back on track not to have upwards of 2 degrees Celsius of climate warming. That number can spell catastrophe.
I’m ready to go march in the streets for the climate and for a more equitable landscape no matter who wins this election, because the people’s voices need to be heard. And no matter who wins the election, we need to get out there and we need to tell these politicians who are making our laws that this system is not working for the people. We need more equitable housing that is climate controlled, and we need to stop these fossil fuel companies and transition to a green economy.
Beaux Miebach ’21: ‘Why would I want to stay in a country that doesn’t seem to care about me?’
I went on a long morning walk, and the weather today is beautiful, which has helped. But I’m feeling weird. I don’t really love that my professors are just expecting us to operate as normal, so I’m feeling overwhelmed, like the political moment isn’t really being considered — trying to focus but checking the poll results every five minutes.
I wasn’t watching the election last night. The last election was two months after I moved to the [United] States from Germany, and I spent it at my partner’s house, whose parents were Trump supporters, watching it over Fox News. It was a traumatic experience, so this time, I was like, “I’m going to make this a soft night where I don’t look at the polls” — I spent it watching Mean Girls.
It’s been really hard to be politically engaged in the States because I don’t have the right to vote and it feels really hard to know that my rights, especially as a queer person, are being decided by everyone around me. I’m a tax-paying legal resident and I don’t have this right. It feels really hard.
I spent a good part of yesterday just reaching out to friends, especially friends that have marginalized identities that are going to be deeply affected by the outcome of this election. This election will decide whether I’m able to or want to stay in the United States. That’s something I’m grappling with. I’m a senior and the U.S. just keeps getting progressively shittier. Why would I want to stay in a country that doesn’t seem to care about me or villainizes me a lot of the time?
Most of my family is at home. It just feels like it’s really exhausting to constantly live in fear that I’m going to get kicked out of the country at any second. I just want to feel safe where I live.
Kayla Butler ’24: ‘Wherever you go, there’s someone mentioning something about the election’
I’ve been staying up very late keeping track of the election and what the results are. This morning, the results in Georgia and Nevada closed considerably. It’s a lot of on-edge, constantly checking the polls. I was in McGraw Hall on election night with my friends, doing homework and watching the results come in. We had it up on the projector, and I was following the numbers there, seeing where they called.
I’ve been able to work on my schoolwork a lot more because I have a group of friends that keeps me focused and we’re able to separate ourselves from the election as a whole, like “Hey this is homework time, and then we can check the election.” First let’s focus on what we can control.
The election is always in the back of my mind. You can always hear someone talking about it. I was sitting at Terrace yesterday doing my homework and there was a group of people behind me talking about it. Wherever you go, there’s someone mentioning something about the election. It’s always the next news story on my notification panel. It’s always there, but it’s a secondary concern for me.
I’m having these conversations almost everywhere. I’m in Eco House and there’s some going on in my dorm. In my government class, we’re talking a lot about how the election is playing out this year, versus how it has played out in previous years. And then random people that I’ll talk to want to have a discussion about: What are your views? What do you think is going to happen?
Everyone is talking about the election in different ways and from different viewpoints. It’s a great opportunity to expand our understanding of how elections work, how elections affect people, how we interact with the world around us.
Cosimo Fabrizio ’22: ‘At the very least, we have a leader who I think is committed to moving our country forward’
I’m excited as hell. It was great to see people packing cars with their signs, honking in celebration. I was in my apartment in Collegetown when I found out, so we turned on Kool and The Gang’s “Celebration” and got to celebrating. We had a good setup, ABC news on the TV, and then one of my friends brought a projector so we had Fox News on the wall. All around a beautiful day.
But in all seriousness, it was looking pretty bad on Tuesday — it was really close. But now, at the very least, we have a leader who I think is committed to moving our country forward, to unifying a really divided nation, making things more just and just having some common sense. I’m happy we at least have a clear opportunity in my mind to start working on some of the deeply rooted flaws our nation has.
I’m a musician, and part of the upbringing I had in jazz forced me to think about a lot of issues related to democracy, because my teachers stressed jazz as a metaphor for democracy. Playing guitar actually got [me] interested in government, more so through that lens of: What is the role of culture and art in governance?
For you to really play the music, each member of the band has a responsibility to listen and contribute to the group in an informed way. Because jazz is based so greatly on improvisation, it compels us to recognize our own identities as individuals but for the music to function, you have to respect your own individuality in the context of respecting everyone else on the bandstand. Jazz is not about different ideas and people tolerating each other or just coexisting in the same space. Jazz is the product of individuals coming together to create something bigger than any of its respective parts. I view American democracy in a similar way because our whole is best when we hear from all our individual parts, when people are able to take pride in themselves and their positions without compromising their ability to respect their fellow Americans.
Fast forward, I ran a campaign the fall of 2018, my freshman year, for a woman in Georgia House District 48 named Mary Robichaux. It’s while I was on the ground there, I started seeing problems with the infrastructure of our elections. I’ve heard about voter disenfranchisement pre-Voting Rights Act but realize in practice, I did not have a good grasp on what it looks like today, other than gerrymandering. What I found was in a predominately white affluent district like GA-48 so few candidates or elected officials even take the time to canvas the precincts where Black and Hispanic people are. They get less information about voting deadlines. On Election Day, we even saw instances of bilingual staffers being moved from polling stations there. And then you start to see particularly long lines in certain neighborhoods. What happens when polling locations are understaffed, mismanaged, but you have a job and can’t just take a day off, or you have to care for someone at home but can’t afford a babysitter?
How is it that in a nation that prides itself so much on our democratic process, that we have such clear displays of not giving people the right to let their voice be heard? I think there’s more of an appetite across the nation now for some sort of reform to take place that will hopefully address the voter suppression and disenfranchisement in all its evolutions.
I love this country and I know we’re at an inflection point. I think that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris getting elected has the potential to heal some of the damage that has been done to the spirit of our nation. And I hope we as people begin to move forward in a way that allows Americans to look back at the Trump Era, 20, 50, 100 years from now and say, “Damn, how did people used to live like that.”
Kayla Butler ’24: ‘I do still have to be somewhat worried, but I’m less on edge’
Yesterday was a great day — it was just warm, but seeing people out and having fun and just getting good vibes from campus was really nice. And then I got to go to dinner with one of my friends because it was his birthday. It was a really great day.
I woke up around 12:30 p.m. and I looked at my notifications and I saw it. I had The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post all telling me, and my mother, but she’s not a news source. I was like, “Oh, cool!” and then I walked outside to get breakfast and there were people driving around and honking, and I was like, “This is kind of dope.”
It has just been a lot more relaxing. Usually I’m always looking at the news — has there been a new policy, a new unilateral action that Trump took that I need to know about that might affect my life? And now I’m kind of like, “Oh, Trump’s name came up. Great. I can ignore that.”
It’s nice knowing that I don’t constantly have to be worried about the news. I do still have to pay attention and I do still have to be somewhat worried, but I’m less on edge. Joe Biden getting elected is great, but it’s really not the end of anything. You still have to be active, and you still have to be watchful.
It’s a change in presidency, but it’s just the beginning. If you want something, you still have to advocate for it, not sit there and expect it to happen. The biggest thing on my mind right now is environmental regulation, ensuring that we have a safe, livable planet. And criminal justice reform. Our prison systems are not functioning. Our bail system is not functioning. Our justice system is not functioning for the majority of Americans. Those are the two things that are really important to me.
Beaux Miebach ’21: ‘I’m ready to see them put in the work and perform on their promises’
It’s been hard to process anything because I’m drowning in work. I feel relief from the election, but I feel worried that the momentum for social change, especially among fellow white people, has gone down, because now it’s much easier to feel comfortable going forward. I’m grateful to have a second to take a breath, but I’m worried.
My first reaction to the election results was big smiles, and then I called my dad and he told me to calm down. The election results are definitely not over — he was like, “Don’t celebrate too soon.” He’s very cautionary. But I really wish I could’ve been somewhere where people are celebrating. I was in a pretty conservative part of New Jersey where the street was just silent.
At the Ithaca Farmers Market yesterday, the demeanor was different with a lot of people. You could tell who was excited about what had just happened and who wasn’t. It was really interesting.
It was definitely like a sigh of relief, especially for a lot of my friends whose future in the country depended on who won. It restored a bit of faith in me, despite the fact that almost half the country voted for Trump. I’m not excited that Biden-Harris won, I’m just happy Trump didn’t win. I’m ready to see them put in the work and perform on their promises. I’m waiting to see how things turn out.
Jonah Helmer ’22: ‘You’re still going to have to march in the streets and demand justice’
It was really great news that Biden was declared the winner. I was really happy, but it didn’t really change anything I was going to do with my day.
Most people on Saturday were celebrating not because Biden won, mainly because Trump lost, which is why I was happy as well. It’s awesome that Biden and Kamala Harris ran on a platform with climate as a focus and I’m really excited to have the first woman of color and woman vice president.
But whether Trump or Biden had won, there’s a lot of work to be done, and you’re still going to have to march in the streets and demand justice, whether that be Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and a reallocation of funds away from police toward more social good, especially climate action, and moving subsidies away from fossil fuels and toward more green energy and allowing low-income groups to access that is super important.
I think we need to continue to hold them accountable for what we elected them for, and I elected them to push progressive issues that increase climate justice, specifically.