The 2020 presidential election looked vastly different from past elections — large numbers of mail-in ballots, extremely high voter turnout rates and the polarizing nature of it all made for an election that first-time voters will be sure to remember.

For those voters, this election could have impacted them in one of two ways; either they are excited to use their voices on the national stage in the future or they are discouraged from participating in the political process ever again. 

“It really turned me on to politics,” Jackson Harms, a freshman studying film, said. “I started caring about politics more, and now that I have the chance to vote I’m obviously (going to).”

Erica Lewis, a freshman studying dance performance and choreography who voted early this election, felt like she was choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” but expressed a positive attitude toward future elections. 

“I do have hope for the future,” Lewis said. “I think that no matter what happens ... everybody's got the best interest of the country and their perspective (in mind). I feel like that's my civic duty and there's too many people that have died for my right.” 

Jacob Portem, a freshman studying pre-nursing, had a slightly different outlook, but agreed overall with Lewis and Harms. 

“Honestly, I'm not a big politics person, but I knew I needed to vote,” Portem said. “I feel that I did what I needed to do.”

For all three of these students, this election was just the start of their voter participation. 

“I feel like my vote matters, especially because how close this election was in some states,” Harms said. “It definitely felt empowering to me.” 

Despite having to wait a while to vote early, Lewis also shared excitement in the voting process. 

“The first time (voting in) ... a big election, I was ... really happy to ... wait in line for like, as long as I did, even though I was a little annoyed by it,” Lewis said. 

Even with all of the enthusiasm that came with the latest presidential race, Harms and Portem think national attention should shift back toward focusing on the issues present before the election.

“I think we're all just very divided by our political parties and everything ... we all kind of just need to … make compromises and … respect everyone's decisions on who they vote for,” Portem said. “I feel like, right now, everyone's against each other just because this is such a big election.”

Harms spoke on the social issues that need to be focused on after the election excitement winds down.

“I feel like … the election is … distracting others from … other issues that need to be addressed,” Harms said. “The coronavirus is still an issue. Black Lives Matter protests are still going on. … I think the election was a good distraction, but I think that one needs to kind of realize that there's still things to be done.”