Barry McNamara  |   Published November 06, 2020

First-Time Voters

Monmouth students share their thoughts on participating in their first presidential election.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When current Monmouth College students prepare to vote in the Election of 2060, they might think back to what a crazy time when they voted for the first time – the Election of 2020, held during a global pandemic when U.S. political polarization was high.

Monmouth students used such words as “privilege” and “grateful” to describe the opportunity they had in this year’s general election, as well as “intimidating.”

ANDRE AUDETTE: I applaud them for taking a stand on the issues that are important to them.&... ANDRE AUDETTE: "I applaud them for taking a stand on the issues that are important to them."“Some of the Monmouth students participating for the first time in this election could very well go on to be elected to office themselves one day, and I applaud them for taking a stand on the issues that are important to them,” said political science professor Andre Audette.

Four of Audette’s students shared their stories of the first voting experience; one was unable to cast a ballot.

“It was a little intimidating to vote for the first time in this election because it was a tough choice,” said Morgan Bemis ’21 of Alton, Illinois. “It’s nice being able to finally make that decision for myself and being a part of something huge, but it’s definitely a new experience and can be very scary.”

Political science major Ben Dobberstein ’22 of Oswego, Illinois, has long been interested in politics. He was informed on the issues leading up to the 2016 election, but he was only a junior in high school at the time and too young to vote.

“I truly wanted that right to vote and now, four years later, I finally get to exercise that right in a general election,” he said. “As exciting as it is to vote in my first general election this year, I cannot help but be frustrated by my choices.”

Again informed on the issues leading up to the 2020 election, Dobberstein said he “voted for the candidate that I believe brings the most hope for our country,” and was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

“As someone who is fascinated by our American democracy and who loves my country dearly, I can only hope that my fellow citizens take advantage of their right to vote, and that they vote with purpose and meaning,” he said. “At the end of the day, as frustrating as this election may be, voting is still just about the most important thing we can do to propel our democracy forward, and I am grateful to be able to do just that in my first presidential election.”

Another political science major, Anita Gándara ’24 of Chicago, also understands the significance of participating in the democratic process.

“At the end of the day, as frustrating as this election may be, voting is still just about the most important thing we can do to propel our democracy forward.” Ben Dobberstein ’22 

“I see voting as a privilege because a woman of color, like me, was not allowed the right to vote a hundred years ago,” she said. “Voting in this election is a prime example of exercising my right to vote and having my voice heard. In this election, there is so much at risk for different groups of people and casting a ballot ensures that my voice and the voices of other minorities are heard.”

One voice on campus, however, was not officially heard for this election, as Fabian Gradilla ’24 of Chicago ran into a stumbling block.

“In October, I registered online to vote via an email sending me to a U.S. registration,” he said. “I did so under the pretense that by registering via this process, I would be able to cast my vote early, as voting day takes place on a school day.”

But Gradilla listed his permanent residence as his address and not his campus location.

“I was informed by a fellow classmate of the error of my actions and that I could not vote this election cycle as I could not physically reach the ballot location that I had unwittingly registered for,” he said.

Audette said the Monmouth students who participated this year were part of an increase within their age demographic.

“Young voters historically vote at much smaller rates than older voters, although early numbers suggest that 2020 might have seen an uptick in the youth vote, particularly in battleground states,” he said. “Voting is one way for young people to make their voice heard and to be taken seriously as the future leaders of the country, so it is encouraging to see more young people turning out and taking part in the democratic process.”

Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Preparation</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p><strong>Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Pi Beta Phi, the first such collegiate women’s organization, was founded at Monmouth in 1867. It was followed three years later by Kappa Kappa Gamma. The two pioneering organizations today boast a total of 275 active chapters nationwide.</strong></p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthscots.com/" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/offices/global-engagement/" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/academics/only-at-monmouth/educational-garden-farm/" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>