A first-time voter reflects on the process

Gabriela Yiangou, a first time voter, was extremely excited to take part in the election. Photo by Michelle Brandabur/BU News Service

By Michelle Brandabur
BU News Service

Now that early voting has ended in Massachusetts and a staggering number of ballots have already been cast across the country, early voters are reflecting on their experience and waiting eagerly for the results in one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent decades. 

Gabriela Yiangou, an international student from Cyprus at Boston University, cast her vote for the first time in the U.S. at Boston’s City Hall on Thursday morning, waiting in line for about thirty minutes alongside forty other voters in downtown Boston.

“It is so exciting being able to know that I voted in the upcoming election and it is exciting to know that other people care that I voted as well,” Yiangou said. “I got an applause when I got my ballot. I am just super excited to be able to have voted. It was a great experience.”

The early voting line outside Boston City Hall on Thursday morning was about forty people long and with waits of about half an hour. Photo by Michelle Brandabur/BU News Service

For Yiangou, who holds a U.S. passport, the process of getting registered to vote involved registering online and mailing her registration form to the Massachusetts State Department. 

“I could check online to see whether my registration has been activated or not and once that happens I am allowed to go vote anywhere I want in Massachusetts,” she said. “So here we are today, voting early at City Hall in Boston.”

According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, 472,944 people have already voted early in-person in Massachusetts, with 965,786 voting by mail. 

As an international student, Yiangou has observed the adversarial nature of voting in this election from an outside perspective.

“I believe that there is so much uncertainty behind the voting system and distrust between the American people and the government so there is a lot of room for growth and improvement within the political system in place,” Yiangou said.

Casting her vote on Thursday, just a few days after a ballot box burned in Copley Square, Yiangou was relieved to be able to go in-person, a luxury she does not take for granted as a healthy young person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It makes me angry obviously because I would like to live in a country where I know what is being done is fair and when you hear that there are people who do things like that it makes me question everything because those votes will never be counted,” Yiangou said of the ballot box burning.

In line with her were throngs of young people willing to vote early in-person and wait in line in the drizzly rain. 

Gabriela Yiangou exits Boston City Hall after voting. Photo by Michelle Brandabur/BU News Service

According to USA Today, nearly 6.2 million first-time voters have already cast their ballots nationwide. Among them, many college students have seen an additional push to vote from their universities.

Boston University, like many other colleges across the country, has continually encouraged their students to raise their voice and vote on flyers posted around the campus and via an email from the university’s President Robert Brown.

Brown addressed the typical low participation rates among college students with the added message, “I encourage you to find your voice and change this pattern.” 

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