URBANA – Hundreds of University of Illinois students and other local residents gathered at polling places across campus Tuesday to vote in this year’s midterm election.
The university’s Illini Union was filled with lines of voters, with some students bringing their friends to vote for their first time.
“I feel kind of crazy, like why am I old enough to vote?” said sophomore in bioengineering, Javier Espinosa, shortly before casting the first ballot of his lifetime.
Espinosa said he’s concerned about political division in the country.
“I feel like it’s just getting more extreme on both sides,” he said. “Everyone doesn’t want to listen. I generally like to actually talk with people about things, and I try to listen.
“I feel like no one actually wants to listen and find common ground.”
He said he’s against party-line voting.
“I feel like it’s very common to be like, ‘I’m Republican, so I’m going to vote for all Republicans,’” he said. “Actually, do your research, because we’re the ones who are going to have to deal with everything that comes.”
Sumeet Thosar, a masters student in bioengineering, agreed.
“It’s important for young people to vote because I think the consequences of this election, is going to carry out in the future, and we’re going to be the ones who have to bear the brunt of that,” Thosar said.
Eli Wright, a senior in creative writing and journalism, voted for the first time in-person. Last election, she cast a mail-in ballot.
She said it’s important for young people to get out and cast their ballots.
“We’re the ones who are going to have to live with these decisions for the rest of time, essentially,” Wright said. “This is the one way that we can really get involved in our democratic process.”
Wright voted alongside her friend, Madison Beneke, a senior in computer science and linguistics.
“I’m specifically interested in protecting the right for abortion in Illinois, so I’m going to be voting in the interest of women’s reproductive rights,” Beneke said.
On the other side of campus, three members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-violence prevention group, gathered outside of the Activities and Recreation Center to encourage students to vote.
The center, along with the union, was one of several polling locations on campus. Others included the Siebel Center for Design, Illinois Street Residence and Florida Avenue Residence Halls and Illini Hillel.
One member of the gun-violence prevention group, Krista Gaedtke, said she’s concerned about where democracy is heading.
“There’s so many important things that are on the ballot that affect college students,” she said, “in particular, abortion rights, gun control, voting rights.
“Democracy as a whole is on the ballot, I would say, in this election.”
Leslie Rye, another group member, said university students need to be involved in the election process. “Students live and work and pay taxes in Champaign County,” she said. “Voting is a way of showing they care about the issues.”