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GRCC students reflect on flexing their right to vote – with many casting a ballot for the first time

Voting sign at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School, one of Grand Rapids’ polling locations for the Nov. 8 election. (Alena Visnovsky/The Collegiate) Alena Visnovsky | The Collegiate Live

By The Collegiate Staff

Today marks a very important Election Day that will determine who will serve as Michigan’s governor for the next four years and an impactful proposition that will greatly affect women across the state will also be decided. Collegiate staff reporters asked students around campus including many first-time voters – about what’s at stake and their journey to the polls. 

Caia Novak is a first-time voter, and she navigated this election by doing research on every category on her ballot. The 19-year-old said, “I like to read all of the fine print to make sure I know what I’m doing.”

Anthony Childress voted for the first time, as well. And although he didn’t specify who he was voting for, he did tell The Collegiate why he was choosing to vote. The Grand Rapids native said, “I’m voting because women’s rights are on the line. I’m voting for women’s rights, and I’m against those who are opposed to abortion.” 

Megan Roach made plans to vote after her class today. And like many voters heading to the polls to vote on Proposal 3, Roach felt compelled about reproductive rights being on the ballot.  “Human rights made me decide I wanted to vote in this election,” Roach said. 

She admitted to feeling slightly nervous about going to vote based on the stakes of the ballot in this election. However, she said she planned on going with friends to ease her nerves. Roach added that she is excited to see changes made from these elections. 

Sam Vandenbrek, of Grand Rapids, urges others to participate in the election. “I encourage everyone to participate,” he said. “Bring your kid so they can experience that, as my mom did the same thing… Voting is like taking a test, but there are no wrong answers. It’s an open note test for new voters.”

With such extreme polar opposite candidates and possible state law changes, some students expressed concerns about the overwhelming weight of the outcome. 

 “It’s really important to me for people in office to represent Michigan and reproductive rights,” said Eli Skop, who planned to vote for the first time Tuesday. “I am really nervous about prop 3 especially with abortion.”

Claire Young, a marketing major, said she feels strongly about things like reproductive rights. “I feel that the election today is crucial because we are dealing with things like the reproductive health of a person and whether or not they should get a say in what happens with their body, and that is an absurd thing to have to vote to keep,” Young said. 

Many GRCC students understand the impact of the election and the weight they carry in their voices through their votes. 

Landon Regnerus, from Grandville, voted Tuesday morning and reported that it went smoothly. 

“Every vote matters, and it’s something that every person in our country should take seriously,” Regnerus said, “I knew what and why I wanted to vote before I walked in. I think it’s going to be interesting with some of the insane things trying to get passed that are going to change our state a good amount if they are passed.” 

Kieran Serras planned to vote after class Tuesday evening. 

“A lot of people probably think that their vote doesn’t matter,” Serras said. “As I get older I think that all those people who don’t vote, if they actually showed up, would matter.” 

The interior design major added, “It’s not hard, it doesn’t take a lot of time but there are definitely a lot of ways you can vote so it’s just easy to do something and make a difference.”

For a selected few, they found the voting process to be simple. 

Tuesday morning Jose Arellao, 19, took some time to go vote and said, “voting was pretty great.” He added, “I feel like our voice matters a lot more than like when we vote on the big stuff like voting for the president.”

Erin O’Kronley, from Grand Rapids, voted on her way to class saying, “the voting process was fine and there was a short line when I went around 11.” O’Kronley did not express a specific stance on the election but has strong beliefs about voting. When asked about why she voted, O’Kronley said, “Because I can. I’m not very into politics but it’s everywhere nowadays so I feel obligated to vote.” She also feels the number of nominees was too excessive. “There are a lot of names to memorize which are hard to remember and overall overwhelming. Gov. Whitmer is the only name I recognized.” 

Elly Degraaf, of Grand Rapids, voted in the midterm’s election, too. Voters might find themselves intimidated by voting but Degraff shares his experience while voting. “It was a fairly simple process,” Degraaf said. “You walk in and give your state-issued ID, and then you vote. It’s very simple, very straightforward.” 

This story was written by Selena Reyes and reported by Reyes, Devin Callahan, Anna Creagan, Grant Fales, Jae Hibbard, Abby Kozal, Nick Lyon, Megan Matthews, Dylan Miesch, Hannah Tuinman, A’Mya Saffore, Pierson VanGorp and Spencer Westmoreland


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