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I’m not enjoying my first election


I requested my absentee ballot on Sept. 29. I would’ve voted by mail regardless of the pandemic since I’m so far away from home. 

My home state is Pennsylvania, and driving across the entire state of Ohio to get to Pittsburgh seems like a terribly inconvenient way to vote.

Four days earlier, my friend Ryan requested his ballot. He goes to Penn State, a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Two other friends from home, Grace and Nicole, requested their ballots on the same day as me. Five days later, my friend Regan requested hers. She’s taking classes remotely this semester but decided she wants to vote by mail anyway just to be safe.

On Oct. 14, I finally got an email saying my ballot had been processed. Three weeks out from Election Day, I wasn’t too concerned. It shouldn’t take more than five days to get to me in post, I thought.

Five days later, my ballot was mailed out.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself. “That still leaves two weeks to vote.”

I started looking into who’s on the ballot other than Biden and Trump. This is my first election, and I refuse to be uninformed on who my local officials might be. 

I wrote down my favorite candidates on a blue post-it note and stuck it on my laptop so it was impossible to lose.

A week went by, plenty of time for a package to make it 320 miles, I thought. When my parents sent a care package in September, it took three days to reach me. Apparently, it’s not enough time for a ballot, though.

On Oct. 28, Regan and Grace got their ballots. Grace goes to Miami, too. “That must mean my ballot is here, too,” I thought as I went to go check my mailbox yet again.

It wasn’t.

Nicole hadn’t received her ballot yet, either. Neither had Ryan, even though he requested his before the rest of us. At this point, I’d seen dozens of Instagram stories saying it’s too late to return mail-in ballots.

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On Thursday, Oct. 29, on my way back to my dorm from lunch, I stopped at my mailbox. I turned the lock three times to the left, one and a half to the right, and once to the left again. Before the door even swung open, I knew what I'd find.


I texted Nicole and Ryan again to ask if either of them had their ballots. They didn’t.

Nicole said her parents are picking her up Monday night so she can vote Tuesday morning. The drive for her is less than two hours since she goes to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, but it’s still longer than it should be to vote. Ryan says he and his sister are going to drive home from college together to vote in person.

I’m farther from home than either of them, but at this point, I was running out of options. The Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania ballots will be counted up to three days after Election Day, but even if my ballot miraculously showed up, I didn’t want to risk it.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, I called home. I still didn’t have my ballot, but this election is too important not to vote.

My mom agreed to pick me up Sunday morning and bring me back to Miami Friday night. That’s a five-hour, 320 mile trip that she would make four times. 

Driving across the entire state of Ohio to get to Pittsburgh seems like a terribly inconvenient way to vote, but apparently, this is the world we live in.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, I got back to my dorm after dinner. Out of instinct, I checked my mailbox one last time. I turned the lock three times to the left, one-and-a-half to the right and once to the left again.

My ballot was sitting there.