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Voting In 2020: It's About 'Exercising Our Most Basic Responsibility As Americans'

Voters from around the U.S. shared their voting stories and selfies with NPR. Michael Rose (left) from Brooklyn, Stacy Adams and two of her children (middle) from Dallas, and Kevin Uy (right) from Raleigh, N.C., all voted early this year.
Voters from around the U.S. shared their voting stories and selfies with NPR. Michael Rose (left) from Brooklyn, Stacy Adams and two of her children (middle) from Dallas, and Kevin Uy (right) from Raleigh, N.C., all voted early this year.

Election Day is finally here, but in a year like 2020, it's more of an election season. As of early Tuesday morning, nearly 100 million people had already cast their ballots.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, 99.7 million votes had been counted, with 35,720,830 of those being in person and 63,936,249 from returned mail-in ballots. The total marks more than 70% of the total votes in the 2016 presidential election.

With so many people participating in early voting and taking precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked voters like you to share how the election process went this year.

For people like Marti Canipe of Flagstaff, Ariz., the pandemic changed how they would normally vote.

"I really like going to the polling place on Election Day to cast my vote, but this year with the pandemic I was worried about doing that," Canipe says. "So early in the summer I got online and changed my voting preference to be on the permanent early voter list."

She got her ballot in October, filled it out and walked to the nearest ballot drop box and "still got that little thrill of, here goes, my voice is still important."

While voting by mail was a first for many people this year, early in-person voting was also a first for some. This year marked the first time that people living in New York could vote early in person for a presidential election — a change that Sophie Majteles took advantage of when she voted in Brooklyn.

Majteles says she waited in line for about 45 minutes before casting her ballot and that she felt great when she finished. During the wait, Majteles says someone was roller skating along the line, offering people free pizza, and that "a lovely poll worker was identifying older folks and visibly pregnant people standing in line and pulled them out to go in first. I heard her say, 'We have to take care of each other, right?'"

Michael Rose also voted from Brooklyn on a Sunday, but waited about 2.5 hours and compared the line — which he says stretched seven blocks and around the perimeter of the building — to that of one for a ride at Disney World. While Rose says his company gives him Election Day off, he thinks the weekend hours of early voting are "fantastic for anyone who has challenges getting time off ... on Election Day itself."

In Dallas, Marla Vazquez participated in a "bike to vote" campaign that her friends organized. On a chilly Saturday morning, the group of about 15 cyclists set out for the American Airlines Center. The lines were short when they arrived, and voting took a matter of minutes. Outside the polling place, volunteers handed out free gourmet sandwiches and organic smoothies from local restaurants.

Vazquez says it felt like "a celebration" and led to "an impromptu picnic when we finished voting." The group then went on a 10-mile ride around Dallas and stopped by a bar with spaced-out tables on a patio where "everyone shared their opinions and voting preferences over beers."

A number of people who responded to our callout say they had little celebrations as they voted, including sitting down for gin and tonics while filling out ballots with a friend or going to a bagel shop before dropping their ballots off.

Not everyone made an intentional plan to go to the polls. Stacy Adams of Dallas says she was actually on her way somewhere else when she told two of her children to grab their IDs because they would stop by a polling place. It was the family's first election in Texas — and her son's first time voting ever. Adams says that this election was particularly stressful. After voting, she says, "it was just a relief knowing that we're making our voices heard and then being down here in Texas is extremely exciting."

Americans who were casting their ballots from abroad also wrote in to share their experiences. Ryan Richardson is currently living in Bristol, England, and mailed in his Wisconsin ballot. He says package tracking showed the ballot arrived in Philadelphia, but was then sent back to the U.K. in error. His ballot crossed the Atlantic three times in three days. He says he was nervous it wasn't going to make it, but it did.

"I do think that this is a really pivotal or crucial election, and I'm glad for one that I am voting from a state that is a swing state," Richardson says. "And therefore, the vote in a lot of ways counts more."

In Raleigh, N.C., Kevin Uy says he did what he's done for the past five years. He voted early in preparation of Election Day when he'll be working the polls as a chief judge of his precinct in Wake County.

"I went to check out the line on the first day of early voting, which was very long due to high enthusiasm," Uy says. "Having the privilege of schedule flexibility, I decided to wait until the next day to vote, so as to not increase the line for others waiting who may not have that flexibility."

Uy says the next day he went back. It was rainy, but he got through the line and voted in less than 30 minutes.

Ryan Feeney, a law student in Tennessee, says he planned to vote by absentee ballot in his home state of Georgia. But he says his first ballot was sent to South Dakota — a place he's never lived — and was canceled. Feeney says he then received two new ballots, but instead of trying to figure out which one he should use, he decided to just drive "four hours to my county elections office in Georgia to vote in person instead."

Marc Lovelace, a recently retired Air Force officer, moved from Florida to Albuquerque, N.M., and had to figure out how to change his voter registration so he could vote in person. He says the whole process took about 35 minutes, but that the most rewarding part came while waiting.

"A gentleman of around 65 years who was behind me in line registered to vote for the first time in his life," Lovelace says. "As he was accepted onto the voter rolls and received his ballot, a loud announcement rang out to the crowd, 'First time voter here!' All the poll workers and voters gave him a standing ovation and a great cheer. It wasn't about blue or red. It was about exercising our most basic responsibility as Americans."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.