Written for The Argo by Moujnir Lewis
As COVID-19 rages on, New Jersey residents will be casting their ballots primarily by mail this year, causing Election Day to look quite different — and Stockton University students are rising to the challenge.
“While some might say voting is pageantry, I think it is important. I see voting as having the potential to decide who gets power. That’s a lot of meaning for one decision,” says first-time voter and Stockton student Martin West.
Though West decided to vote by mail due to concerns over the pandemic, he also worries about the lack of fraud protection that comes with mail-in-ballots.
Stockton student Kishan S. Patel shares these sentiments and has opted to vote in-person. Patel thinks that the printing costs and possible tampering associated with mail-in ballots are not worth it. “I would just rather see my vote be submitted before my eyes and not have to worry about it being lost in the process of delivery,” Patel says.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr. Claire Abernathy, notes that this is a common fear in the current climate.
“There has been a lot of, unfortunately at times, misinformation about the security of voting by mail. I think it is because it is something new to many people,” says Abernathy. “People are suspicious.”
Abernathy says that this is why the biggest challenge facing voting education is informing students about mail-in ballots and their functionality in comparison to previous years. For example, to avoid delays this late in the election season, it is recommended that ballots be placed in a secure dropbox within the voter’s residential county.
“There are more security measures in place than people realize,” Abernathy says, noting that the drop boxes are “fully locked and monitored.”
Concerns over tampering that students have witnessed in other states is not necessarily a red flag for NJ, either. Each state implements its election laws in their own ways. “Often the issues one state is having, other states aren’t having,” Abernathy says.
Concern over voting options aside, most students agree that exercising one’s constitutional right is pivotal.
“People fought and died to give us this right,” Stockton student Taylor Anastasio says. “Many countries are not as fortunate as we are to have their voices heard.”
Patel shared this perspective, as he feels a particular responsibility to vote in this election. “If you are passionate about people being able to exercise their basic human rights then it is important to go out and make sure your voice is heard,” Patel says.
Policies impact daily living, so every person must consider what issues are important to them and vote accordingly.
“We should not let our elders or professors sway our thinking. This is our country, and we are the future of it,” says Anastasio.
Election Day is this Tuesday, November 3. If planning to vote in-person, please note that not all polling places are open, so voters are advised to check the status of their polling location on the NJ election Website.