Polls were open across Florida from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 6. Voters showed up to cast their ballots and make their voices heard on a variety of elections and issues. All interviews were conducted at the University of Miami’s Watsco Center, unless otherwise noted.
Emotions running high
6 p.m.: More than a dozen students still waited to cast their ballots with only an hour left until the polls closed.
Tikiyah Ivey was a first-time voter in Florida. Originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, she left the voting booth wiping tears from her eyes. As a registered Democrat, she had chosen to vote for Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race.
“When I was casting my ballot to vote, I cried,” she said. “I am so proud to be able to exercise a right that my ancestors marched for.”
─ Glen Howard
Voting with schools in mind
5:30 p.m: University of Miami students and faculty were still making their way into the Watsco Center voting site, ready to cast their ballots.
Bill Nelson, a Los Angeles native, voted for Andrew Gillum in the Florida’s governor race.
“My mother is a teacher in California and Andrew Gillum is very persistent upon better benefits for teachers and the education system within Florida,” said Nelson, a business major. “Even with me being here a couple of months, I can already tell that the public school systems in Miami, South Miami and Liberty City need improvement.”
When it came to the Florida Senate and the U.S House of Representatives races, Nelson said he voted for the Democratic candidates.
“At the end of the day, our country just flows on Republican and Democratic parties. So if I were to choose a political party, I would vote democrat.”
─ Naomy Lelis
A vote for immigration rights
5:30 p.m.: Several people made their way to the Watsco Center polling site as the day drew to an end.
Sarah Gillard, a 19-year-old neuroscience major, said she cast a ballot for Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race.
For Gillard, her beliefs on social issues, including gun-law reform, abortion rights and immigration laws, were her top priorities when deciding which candidates deserved her vote.
“I know a few undocumented immigrants,” Gillard said. “Even though it doesn’t personally affect me, it does affect them.”
Prior to today, Gillard had issues voting because polling staff could not verify her registration and social security number. After calling five times and having back and forth conversations through email, she was finally able to cast her vote.
For the Miami congressional race, Gillard voted for Donna Shalala.
“I didn’t vote for Shalala just because of Miami,” she said. “The independent person just had really ridiculous military ideas, like building a robotic soldier army, and no more money needs to go into the military.”
─ Naomy Lelis
Missing out on history
North Miami Library, 5 p.m.: The crowd expressed mixed feelings at the same polling place where a historical event took place.
A few years ago, Desiline Victor was recognized by former President Obama for standing in line at this voting location. She waited six hours to vote for the first time at the age of 102, excited to cast her ballot for Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
Luckily, 28-year-old Cherlyne Osmann didn’t have to wait quite that long this year.
After arriving to the polls from a long shift as project manager assistant at Victory E&I Roofing, Osmann said she was pleased to find that her voting experience was quick and easy.
“This was a surprise to me because other elections were much more of a hassle,” Osmann said. “The lines were much longer. I was annoyed. I mean it was a mess. However, this time was smooth.”
But despite the lack of lines, Osmann wasn’t completely satisfied on this Election Day. She said she regretted her decision to vote for DeSantis over Gillum.
Although she didn’t vote for Gillum because he supports abortion rights and gender-neutral bathrooms, Osmann said she’d now rather have him as governor than DeSantis. She said she didn’t realize that DeSantis had Trump’s endorsement, or that he made “horrible statements” about Gillum concerning the black community.
“I just wish I voted for Gillum instead because he would have been the first black governor in Florida and I wish I could be a part of history.”
4:50 p.m.: Freshman Kennedy McClelland of Philadelphia voted for the first time today knowing exactly how she would vote before entering the polling station. As a registered Democrat, she voted completely blue.
“There’s no specific policy I was looking for, I just agree with Democrats overall,” said McClelland.
McClelland said she voted yes to Amendment 4, which would restore voting rights to Floridians with felony convictions once when have completed all of their sentence.
“I believe that they should be able to vote again,” said McClelland. “They did their time. They’re out of jail. They can change as a person. I really believe that.”
Knocking on the door
West Miami-Dade Regional Library, 4:30 p.m.: Enrildo Hernandez, 75, a registered Republican who resides in the Westchester community of Miami Dade County, described the amount of campaigning that lead up to Election Day.
“I feel that campaigning this year was a little out of hand,” said Hernandez, who mentioned the high number of campaign workers who knocked on his door to endorse a candidate or encourage voter participation.
Hernandez said he favored Ron De Santis in this year’s midterm elections because he loves the gubernatorial candidate’s policies on schooling and tax increases.
“I feel like it’s a close race in all categories of the election and I feel there is no for sure winners as it stands,” Hernandez said.
─Danyel De Villiers
The voters’ impact, according to a candidate
West Miami-Dade Regional Library, 4:30 p.m.: It was a relatively empty polling site in Westchester. Only a dozen voters a few campaign managers were in sight as the sun began to set on Election Day.
Carlos Curbelo, a Republican candidate running for election in the 26th Congressional District, made an appearance at the West Miami-Dade Regional Library, encouraging voters to cast their ballots before the polls closed.
“The more people participate, the better for our democracy,” said Curbelo. “Our democracy depends on citizens being active and it’s been good to see people turnout at high levels for midterm election.”
Curbelo, who grew up in Miami-Dade County and graduated from UM, spoke about the experience of hearing voters’ opinions during his many public appearances.
“In a Congressional race we have so many precincts that we would like to visit, but I think for the candidate, visiting these areas augments our knowledge,” said Curbelo. “We hear directly from people about their concerns and you see how they appreciate seeing their candidate.”
─Danyel De Villiers
Smiling at the chance to vote
4:30 p.m.: As the sun began to set, students flooded to the polls from across campus. Senior Meredith Woods Morris was among them, exiting the Watsco Center polling station with a slight grin on her face.
Woods Morris, who is involved in Student Government Elections Commission, said that because of voter suppression across the country, it was important that she and others took the time to vote.
“I think elections are very important,” said the Pearson resident. “So many people don’t have the opportunity and their is an assault on people’s ability to vote.”
─ Abigail Adeleke
Voting to impact the future
4:30 p.m.: Naomi Aganewku, a 19-year-old student, described government as being “in an unbelievable state right now.” She said she feels like her voice isn’t being heard overall as a citizen.
For this reason, she voted for Andrew Gillum.
“He listens to the voice of the youth,” said Aganeakwu, who headed to the polls straight from class. “The future of America is the youth, it is me. We have to start making decisions that we won’t have to fix later down the line.”
Aganekwu said that for this reason, she encouraged all of her friends and classmates to really think about the future when they went to cast their votes.
─ Morgan Threatt
A confusing process
4:10 p.m.: Ellie Gaither, a freshman biomedical engineering major, said she had no idea what to expect on Election Day.
“It was kind of confusing because it was my first-time voting and no one really explained the process of it,” said Gaither.
Although she said the voting process was confusing, Gaither went into the polls knowing exactly how she was voting: blue.
“It was about wanting change and I also read a pamphlet that was given out for the voting and I found myself agreeing with everything the Democrats were saying,” said Gaither, a registered Democrat. “I believe that if we don’t vote for something different, we aren’t going to see any change.”
Still a Democrat
4 p.m.: Jill Weiss, a senior double majoring in computer science and honors communication, voted blue for the second election in a row.
“I voted for Clinton in 2016, not because I stood for all of the things she stood for, but because I thought it was important for a woman to be elected president,” she said.
Neither Jill’s political party nor her views have changed since then; if anything “they’ve been reinforced,” she said. Still supporting the Democratic party, Weiss voted for Donna Shalala.
“I want to sit down for a meal with her and pick her brain,” Weiss said.
─ Coco Rominger
A vote for Gillum
4 p.m.: David Marshal, a 33-year-old former DJ, arrived to the polls at UM’s Watsco Center. He said he voted for Andrew Gillum in the race for the governor’s seat.
“I voted for Gillum because I feel like he will be the best in office moving forward for Florida, it is as simple as that,” said Marshal.
“He seems like he loves the young people of Florida and has the most realistic views,” Marshal said. “We need some practicalness in government right now”.
He said he deeply believes Gillum will secure the vote on Election Day.
─ Morgan Threatt
Putting politics aside in favor of friendship
3:30 p.m.: First-time voters Amy Agne and Megan Sheehan went to the polls together, even though they disagree on nearly every major political issue.
While Agne is a registered Democrat, Sheehan is a registered Republican. They both said they intended to vote for candidates within their parties, with Ange opting to support Andrew Gillum for governor and Sheehan planning to vote for his opponent, Ron DeSantis.
They also disagreed on Amendment 4, which would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons after they’ve completed their sentences. Agne said everyone deserves the chance to vote, but Sheehan disagreed.
“That thought just makes me nervous,” she said. “If someone is a criminal, they obviously did something messed up.”
But the pair of freshmen architecture students said that despite their differences, it’s not hard to remain friends.
“I think that it makes our world better that there are so many different opinions,” Agnes said. “If we all believed the same thing, I feel like we wouldn’t be able to move forward.”
─ Rebecca Goddard
Being the change, despite challenges
3 p.m.: Students continued to trickle into the polls throughout the afternoon. Anna Prelack, a junior nursing student, said she showed up because she “just knew it was important to vote.”
Prelack she voted for Democrats down the ticket. She said she always takes into account each candidate’s personal opinions on the issues, especially gun control and abortion rights, because she wants the people in office to have values that align with her own.
“It’s just hard to have our voices heard because there’s not that many young representatives in office,” Prelack said. “But we’re the change that’s coming, so I think it’s important for people to vote.”
A freshman real estate student, who asked not to be identified by name, agreed that voting is important, but said she wishes that the process was easier.
“I think that it needs to be updated,” she said. “There’s such good technology now, but that was very archaic.”
She said it took over 30 minutes to cast her ballot, and that she was late to a meeting due to the long wait times.
“I’m happy I voted, but I think that it could definitely have gone better.”
─ Rebecca Goddard
Voting for better education
2 p.m.: For Andrew Whigham, 20, voting for Andrew Gillum came at no hesitation. With his mother being a principal and having served 30 years in the education field, policies that will positively impact Florida’s education system are what earn Gillum Whigham’s vote.
Whigham says that he would like to see better pay for teachers, better classroom spaces and an improved education system overall.
“My family has a background in education,” said Whigham, a biomedical engineering major. “I support an improved education system, and that’s what Gillum has promised to bring.”
─ Tre’Vaughn Howard
Every voice matters
2 p.m.: Student voters continued to make their way from the classroom to the Watsco Center polling site. Although many of them planned on casting ballots for different politicians, one theme was universal ─ the importance of voting.
Keagan Larkins,18, who plans to vote Gillum, expressed how important it was for him and all American citizens to exercise their voting rights.
“If people get out to vote everyones opinion will be counted,” said Larkins, a biology major. “Then it will be a true representation of what the people really want.”
Among others, Emily Swafford, 22, who has voted Democratic in the past but was still undecided when she showed up to the polls, emphasized the idea that everyone who can vote, should vote.
“If everyone does not vote than its not the choice of the people,” said Swafford. “Instead it’s the choice of the select few who come out.”
─ Tre’Vaughn Howard
Big blue for Florida
2 p.m.: Waiting on a long line stretching out of the Watsco Center, Justin Braun, a 19-year-old musical education major, was ready to vote in his first election.
“I’m voting blue for everything,” Braun said.
Braun went out to vote because many states turned red during the 2016 election when Donald Trump won the presidency.
“A lot of people were expecting a better outcome in 2016,” Braun said. “Politicians promised a lot of things that were fake and that’s why a lot of people are voting now.”
Braun had a list of all the candidates that he was voting for on his phone and referred to the file as his “plan.”
— Maxwell Trink
Voting in favor of second chances
2 p.m.: People were eager to cast their votes for the numerous spots up for grabs in the state and national governments. Like most other students, 19-year-old Hannah Paul was focused on the candidates, but she also said she felt passionate about Amendment 4.
“I voted yes on Amendment 4,” Paul said. “I think people deserve another chance.”
Paul is a registered Democrat who voted for both Donna Shalala and Andrew Gillum. She also said she feels that the 2016 election impacted the 2018 midterms.
“It is important show support for your candidate,” Paul said. “Voting is so important, and the 2016 election showed how much of an impact voting makes.”
— Maxwell Trink
First-time voter wants to see change
12 p.m.: Greta Hicks, a freshman music theatre major and first time voter, calmly walked out of the polls after casting her vote.
“Everything went pretty smoothly. Everyone was super nice and clearly cared a lot about voting.”
The 18 year-old cast a ballot for Bill Nelson in the Florida Senate race.
“I think he can bring about some changes that we need, such as gun reform and civil rights for minorities and women,” Hicks said.
For the election of Florida’s governor, Hicks cast a vote for Andrew Gillum.
“I think he’s very personable beyond just what he stands for and also a lot of his ideology is similar to mine.”
— Iris Maryland
A difficult decision
12 p.m.: Alejandro Baquero-Lima, 29-year-old entrepreneur and former Tallahassee resident, said after much deliberation between the two candidates for governor, he cast a ballot for Ron De Santis after reviewing Andrew Gillums’ performance as the mayor of Tallahassee.
“I wanted to give Gillum a fair shake, but a lot of his actions in Tallahassee proved to be negative,” Baquero-Lima said of the the Democratic nominee for Florida governor. “We had a lot of problems with power restoration after the hurricane. Two weeks without power is unacceptable.”
As for his views on Amendment 4, which would restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation, Baquero-Lima voted yes.
“I worked on criminal justice reform for quite a few years and I really think I’m not one to judge,” he said. “Felons who have been convicted for non-violent crimes shouldn’t be barred from voting especially if they are trying to get their lives together.”
Baquero-Lima, a registered Republican, believes that Americans must take advantage of their right to vote.
“I think a lot of Americans take it for granted. The best way we can run a country is by basically having your voice heard.”
— Iris Maryland
Voting for similar beliefs
11:30 a.m.: The polling station on Tuesday morning was full of strong-willed students and community members excited to vote.
UM freshman, registered Democrat Ana Ruiz, came to the polls for the first time ever, ready to fill out a blue ballot.
For Ruiz, the choice was simple regarding Amendment 4. She said she believes that people who have served their time should be reintegrated into society, and hopes to see the amendment elicit a positive change.
“If they’ve done their sentence, and the law sees them fit, they should be put back into society,” Ruiz said.
A personal connection to the values of gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum inspired Andrea Ezello to cast a Democratic ballot as well.
“I voted for the candidate that cares for the same issues I care about,” said Ezello. “I value women’s reproductive rights, health care reform, criminal justice reform and climate change.”
─ Ellie Horwitz
11 a.m.: Young voters were in and out of the Watsco Center on Tuesday morning, some cheering and others excitedly putting on their “I voted” stickers.
Victoria Walters, a 19-year-old sophomore economics major, said she voted blue all across the ballot this year.
“This was my first time voting,” said Walters. “I was really kind of unsure where to go, but after doing some research online, I saw that these were probably the best fit candidates for this year.”
“Vote blue,” said 19-year-old health science major Ademide Young, who voted for Democrat Andrew Gillum.
“A lot of my friends who I’m close with and respect have said good things about him,” said Young.
Politics are not new to Young ─ he said he’s followed past presidential elections ─ but this is the first election in which he’s been old enough to vote.
Forever a democrat
North Miami Library, 8:00 a.m.: The lines were short and moved quick as Kerry Cooper, a 29-year-old nursing student, came to vote for Democratic candidates.
“Being a Democrat runs through my veins,” she said. “My views will always stay the same and never change,” she added.
Back in the 2016 elections, Cooper said she voted for Hillary Clinton “because we need more women in politics.”
“Not only did I feel like she was the best candidate, but she would have been the first women to be president,” Cooper said.
Cooper also said she believes Democrats always help one another, which is one of the reasons why she was compelled to vote for Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson.
A proud registered Democrat, Cooper also mentioned that she could never see herself as a Republican because she’s been a Democrat all her life.
“I could never walk around my family’s home as a Republican. They would all chew my head alive,” she said.
First-time voters cast their ballots on UM’s campus
8 a.m.: The official polling place on UM’s campus had just been open for a little over an hour when a slow but steady trickle of students began to come and go.
“This is sure to pick up fast in the afternoon,” said a volunteer handing out flyers for Florida House nominee Javier Fernandez.
First-time voter and Frost School of Music student Mia Flora, 19, had some trouble at the polls but it didn’t stop her from casting a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are given to those who have an inconsistency in their voter registration. They are only counted once the voter’s eligibility can be verified.
Flora, despite her disappointment that her ballot wasn’t quite legitimate, said she still excited to cast her vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.
Flora was enthusiastic about former UM president and Democratic nominee for Florida’s 27th congressional district, Donna Shalala.
“I think it means a lot,” Flora said of Shalala’s history as a former president of UM. “It shows that she’s more than just a politician.”
Sophomore Mercy Tefera, 19, is also a first-time voter and a registered Democrat. However, she opted not to vote for Shalala despite voting for Andrew Gillum for Governor and Bill Nelson for Senate, both Democrats.
Instead, she voted for independent candidate Mayra Joli, an immigration attorney and former beauty contestant based in Brickell who, despite being a Democrat, supports President Trump and his “political incorrectness.” However, according to the Miami Herald, Joli has some serious policy disagreements with the president.
“I don’t think you have to always vote with your political party,” Tefera said. “It’s better to vote based on the qualities you see in that person.”
─ Emma Erickson-Kery
Noisy polls and hopeful early voters
Coral Gables Library, Nov. 1, 4 p.m.: As campaign workers shouted “vote for DeSantis” and “vote for Shalala”, sophomore Godard Solomon strode past, ready to cast his vote early at the Coral Gables Library.
Solomon, a student at the University of Miami, said this particular election is very important to him, as he had been working on the campaign for Donna Shalala, congressional candidate and former UM president, since the beginning of the summer.
“Interning for Donna Shalala has given me a different perspective,” said the Hammond Scholar. “It gave me more of a reason to vote. It made me realize that I definitely cannot skip out on voting.”
The political science and public administration major said that when people choose not to vote, they neglect the right that people in the past fought for.
“It is the easiest way to voice your opinion on the current political climate,” said Solomon.