Politics | November 3rd, 2020

First Time Voter Travels Over 1,000 Miles

By: Dejania Oliver
First Time Voter Travels Over 1,000 Miles

For many, the 2020 presidential election became one of the most important elections of young voters’ lives. One student, Melissa Dazme, heard the message loud and clear as she traveled over 1,000 miles to cast her vote.

Dazme is a 21-year-old senior attending Florida A&M University (FAMU). She has lived in Florida all her life; however, she lives with her aunt in New Jersey on occasion when she is away from school. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been taking all her classes remotely there. When she realized she was registered to vote in Florida and not in New Jersey, Dazme knew she had to figure out a way to participate by any means necessary. Having grown up with a family who takes pride in their ability to vote, Dazme made the decision to take a trip to cast her ballot.

“I’ve always been interested in the election process and politics almost my entire life,” Dazme said. “Both of my parents came to America from Haiti and they take pride in the fact that they are able to participate in elections. It is something that is taken very seriously by my family and many other Haitians especially now.”

According to Business Insider, 60% of the country’s eligible voters voted in the 2016 election, with 46 million people casting an early vote. This year, however, Americans showed up to the polls in droves making record-breaking numbers. The New York Times reported that 99.7 million ballots have been cast by in-person voting and mail-in ballots. People across the nation have shown a special interest in this election and the numbers show that people are passionate about both presidential candidates on the ballot. Dazme knew that this election was an important one, so she made the decision with her aunt to drive from New Jersey to Miami. A 1,271-mile drive.

France Jean, Dazme’s aunt, was the driver for the trip and says not only was she happy to vote, but she was also happy to bring her niece to the polls for her first time, even if they had to get through the long drive first.

 I was not willing to fill out the mail-in ballot,” Jean said. “I found that there were too many inconsistencies. I felt more comfortable traveling down to vote in person.”

 On the almost 19-hour drive, Dazme saw a lot of things that made it clear that she has to vote in this election. On social media, many people announced who they supported in this race, sometimes violently. She was able to see those people in person, and it made her that much more determined to hit the polls.

 “We saw a lot of Trump 2020 billboards and yard signs. There was even a man that had 6 red MAGA [Make America Great Again] hats lined up in the rear windshield of his white Buick, with one hat sitting comfortably on his head,” Dazme said. “They believe in what he believes in and they wear it proudly on the bumper of their cars.”

Regardless of what she saw and heard, Dazme still believes that voting is a privilege and that everyone’s vote matters. She knew her vote had to be in Miami, and she wanted to be able to vote for change in the city she was raised in. She wanted to be able to vote to raise the minimum wage and vote for people who cared about protecting Miami’s resources and has a plan to fight climate change. To Dazme, voting in Florida was not a want, but a need.

 “My parents became citizens because they love this country, and although we have different perceptions on the perfection of America, we agree that voting is important,” Dazme said. “It was also important for me to travel down to Miami and vote for the people I felt would enact change.”

 The election ends today, Nov. 3. Many Americans are anxious to see the outcome and are preparing for excitement or disappointment. While many people plan to cast their vote today, some do not plan on voting at all. Dazme believes that should not even be an option, especially with the stakes so high. She says people should not be complicit in the violence and oppression being experienced in the U.S. and that standing with each other will prove worthy in the end.

 “Change happens when you start to care about your future and the others around you,” Dazme said. “You should always feel like you have the ability to make a difference. If your vote did not matter, they would not be working so hard to stop you from doing so. Being present and standing tall for even the most minute cause, can produce a large impact not only for you but for others who don’t have an opportunity to vote. Do it for them and do it for you.”