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Record numbers go to the polls as early voting begins in Tennessee

As election day closes in, with a mere 13 days until ballot boxes close, Memphians have started to cast their votes which will affect the way local, state and federal government operates for the next few years. 

With early voting already underway, this will be the first time that many students at the University of Memphis will use this right when selecting the next president of the United States, along with many members of Congress. 

Alexandria Bowler, junior at the University of Memphis, and Kennedi Hall, a senior at the UofM, spoke about the significance that voting has to usher in change in this country. 

“If we all take that energy to vote as much as we take the energy to complain about what's happening, change is just going to come upon us,” Hall said. 

She encourages people to vote because she believes that everyone’s voice will be heard somehow. Every vote matters to decide what the future holds for the country with whoever will win the race to the White House, she said. 

With videos and pictures of the lines at polling stations plastered across social media, Hall made it clear that she would wait in the line all day to cast her vote and use her voice to partake in a fundamental right that the country did not always afford all its people. If that is what it takes to see a difference in the nation, Hall said she is more than willing to sacrifice a few hours out of her day to use her voice. 

Despite some poeple encountering long lines at the polls, Hall says she believes anything, such as waiting hours in a line, is worth it to her. With all of the racial and economic turmoil that the country is facing, Hall said a simple vote could alter the course of the country’s current situation. 

Tennessee surpassed a record on the first day of early voting with 273,325 ballots being cast. The experience for voters this year looked a little different because of the precautions that are necessary concerning COVID-19. 

Bowler said she had never experienced a line like the one she went through in order to vote at the Public Library in Nashville, her hometown. From her past experiences of voting, she said this one really does not compare to the other elections. 

As a black woman, Bowler explained how she should use her privilege of being able to vote because her ancestors once did not have that opportunity. 

“Yes, the lines are long, but years ago look at what our ancestors were fighting for, what they were doing,” Bowler said. “All we gotta do is stand in a long line — they couldn’t even vote.” 

Bowler said that she believes this election is a wakeup call to her and others because of how it molds the future for everyone for a better and unified nation. 

Bowler said she thinks social media has encouraged citizens to get out of the house and stand in those long lines in order to exercise their democratic voices. Despite the fear that some people have that their vote will not count, she believes the act of voting should be done anyway. 

“Even though certain people have a lot of control over certain things, it still lets us know that we have some type of voice and we should use it,” Bowler said. “We all talk about wanting change, and we want to see change, but we have to use the tools we are given to start to get the change that we want.”

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