This fall, the Gephardt Institute launched #MyFirstElection, a storytelling campaign that shares individuals’ experience engaging in the U.S. 2020 presidential election. Posting a series of short videos on our Facebook and Instagram social media accounts, we aimed to address any uncertainties that first-time voters may have been feeling toward the election. Featured stories shared other opportunities to be civically engaged beyond just voting, including participating in poll-working, pursuing policy research, phone-banking, discussing issues with family and friends, volunteering, watching debates, canvassing, and reading a variety of trusted news sources.
The #MyFirstElection campaign consisted of two installments. In our first series of videos, released from October 29 to 31, members of the WashU community detailed their Election Day plans and shared advice with first-time voters. Our second installment, a compilation of interviews recorded on November 3 outside the Danforth Campus polling location, focused on individuals’ experiences recently voting. We shared these on-site experiences a week after Election Day in our efforts to encourage continued engagement and reflection in the post-election period.
Read on for an introduction to the #MyFirstElection Campaign videos below.
Dr. Maya Ganapathy
Meet Dr. Maya Ganapathy, an assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She mailed in her ballot to participate in her first U.S. presidential election as a naturalized citizen!
Maya’s advice for first time voters included: make an informed decision by researching your candidate’s platforms and consulting nonpartisan sources of information. Also, attend any of the Gephardt Institute virtual events; talk it out, digest our political climate, and reflect.
Meet Kiran Boone, a junior studying neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences, from Chicago, Illinois. Kiran first participated in the May 2018 primaries and felt inspired by the local changes in policies and positive impact the election had on her community. For this election, Kiran planned to vote in person, “bright and early in the morning,” to make sure her vote is cast in time on November 3.
Kiran urged first time voters to use their voice to impact not only federal and state policies but local politics. Furthermore, make time to research who and what will be on your ballot, consult a trusted online source, and look at their voting guide and recommendations.
Dr. Jean Castillo
Meet Dr. Jean Castillo, a postdoctoral researcher of cell biology and optogenetics at the School of Medicine, from Mexico City. Jean believes that voting is a social responsibility and a democratic right in Mexico, and he greatly valued his opportunity to impact the future of Mexican government by voting in his first election in 2006.
Jean advised those eligible to vote in the U.S. to show up and vote. He urged young voters to think beyond themselves, to carefully consider their community at large and to invest in the future of the country.
Meet Emily Woodruff, a first-year undergraduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, from St. Charles, Missouri! Emily’s first election was earlier this year during the March primaries. She has been volunteering with WashU Votes, engaging in on-campus notary activities, and was excited to vote again on Election Day, November 3.
Emily advised first time voters to consider the issues on your ballot beyond the presidential nominees; make sure you understand how these more complex policies will impact you and your community.
And, with enthusiasm, Emily reminds us that your vote MATTERS!
Meet Ethan Liss-Roy, a sophomore majoring in physics in the College of Arts & Sciences, from Boston, Massachusetts. He also volunteers with WashU Votes, helping members of the WashU community access resources to engage in the election.
Ethan mailed in his first vote via absentee ballot back in March for the 2020 presidential primaries. This election, he planned to vote in person at our on-campus polling location early in the morning–before the lines get too long.
Through his experience in the last few months, Ethan understands that the voting process in the United States is far from perfect. He wants to remind all voters that, regardless of what the outcome is after this presidential election, we must make an ongoing commitment to create a truly representative democracy. There is much more work to be done!
Meet Mukti Desai, originally from Navsari, Gujurat, India, currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, and mother of our Chief of Staff, Dr. Shruti Desai! Although her first U.S. election was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running for president, unfortunately she could not vote since she was a green card holder at the time.
Now a U.S. citizen, Mukti is voting for the first time in this election. She’s been carefully reading news, watching presidential debates, and discussing presidential politics with her coworkers and family.
Mukti urges citizens to take advantage of their right to vote; if you want to see change, actively challenge the United States to be a better country.
Meet Sheila Tran, a second-year Arts & Sciences graduate student in Chemistry. She voted because she wants the future of the U.S. to be “as pro-science, pro-facts, and pro-equality” as possible. “I want the safety and rights of my family and friends to be protected,” she added. Sheila was grateful to be able to vote in a safe, nearby, and familiar location on the Danforth Campus.
Helen Telahun, a first-year student in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, voted for the first time at WashU’s on-campus polling location in the Athletic Complex. Helen was happy with her experience especially because she did not have to wait in a long line to cast her vote.
Helen chose to vote because she wants a better future for this country, specifically for women of color in her community, and knows that casting her ballot is one of many ways to make sure her voice is heard. She has faith in a positive outcome!
Meet Shira Lyss-Loren, a sophomore studying sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She participated in this presidential election by mailing in an absentee ballot to her hometown in Seattle, Washington. Shira read a handful of local news sources, and, with the help of her little sister’s advice and research, made an informed decision.
Stay tuned for more stories and visit washuvotes.wustl.edu for voting and post-election resources.