Gina Calise voted Tuesday morning to advocate for her friends and family at home in Puerto Rico.
The freshman psychology major casted her vote at a polling place at Norris Apartments on 11th and Berks streets — more than 1,500 miles away from her home in Humacao, a small town about an hour drive away from Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan.
Calise is one of many first-time voters at Temple University who went to the polls for the midterms. More college students voted in this election compared to the 2014 midterm elections across the country, Vox reported Tuesday night.
These are the first elections since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Republicans have mobilized to keep control of the U.S. Senate, while Democrats have campaigned to flip the party controlling the U.S. House of Representatives.
There are several highly competitive governor races in Georgia and Florida where, if Democrats Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum win, they will be the first Black governors in their respective states, The New York Times reported.
In Pennsylvania, incumbent Democrat Governor Tom Wolf is running against Republican Scott Wagner, a former state senator. Wolf currently has more than 80 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press.
Calise said she voted with immigration, the environment and education in mind.
“At home we don’t get as much of a decision in what happens over here and that still affects [things] back home,” Calise said. “I feel like I’m kind of helping a bit by voting here.”
Calise’s family didn’t have much of an influence on her political views, she said. Her father never thought one person’s vote amounted to much and her mother was too busy with work to vote, she said.
“The thing that a lot of people talk about is if Puerto Rico should be a state or if Puerto Rico should be independent,” Calise said. “A lot of people feel really strongly about that, so that’s the main issue when I think about politics in Puerto Rico.”
Calise, who moved to Philadelphia to go to Temple, said voting for the first time was strange for her — Puerto Rico residents are prohibited from voting for president or a voting member of Congress, and there is no electoral college.
Nick Pavlovitch, a freshman engineering major, voted for the first time today in his hometown of Springfield, Pennsylvania, a township in Delaware County. Pavlovitch, who is a Republican and supports gun control legislation, said many of his friends and family encouraged him to vote.
“It’s always been a hot topic in our town,” Pavlovitch said of gun control. “It’s both important to my community and my family.”
Some students voted across state lines.
Bryce Doherty, a freshman jazz education major who is a registered independent in Connecticut, voted with an absentee ballot. Doherty said he remembers his parents taking him with them to the polls to vote before he could exercise this right.
“My parents always voted,” he said. “I’ve just been told, ‘That’s what you do.’”
“I can’t necessarily complain if things aren’t going how I want,” he added.
For Pavlovitch, the election represents a divide in political beliefs between him and his family members. He said his dad is more moderate and his mom is a registered Democrat.
“Most of the time I’m not necessarily with one side or the other,” Pavlovitch said. “Even on the ballot, there are some positions that I side more with a Democrat, other’s Republican.”
Another first-time voter, freshman entrepreneurship major Michael Termini, voted for all the Republican candidates on Tuesday.
“It’s everyone’s civic duty,” he said. “Regardless of where you lean on the political spectrum, even if your candidate is most likely going to lose, regardless of your location, You should go out and have your voice heard.”
Termini added his family never really talked about politics when he was growing up.
Calise, Doherty and Pavlovitch have all heard friends and family say voting doesn’t matter, but disagree with this.
“If enough people vote, we could make a difference,” Calise said. “Maybe because not enough people are voting, the issues that are happening now are because of that. Maybe we can make a difference if more people vote.”