Sac State students vote at Modoc Hall despite virtual semester

Vote center opened to Sacramento County voters with coronavirus precautions


Rahul Lal

Fernando Rodriguez, 38, with his daughter Cecilia Rodriguez, 2, drops in his vote via a ballot box at Modoc Hall at Sacramento State Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The hall previously held voting for Super Tuesday in March of this year.

Isabelle Juarez, Samaha Samy, and Gavin Rock

Sacramento State opened its vote center in Modoc Hall for Sacramento County residents and Sac State students to cast their ballots for the 2020 presidential election from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m Tuesday. 

At Modoc Hall, voters could drop off a mail ballot, register to vote, and vote on-site. Non-partisan poll workers from the county guided voters on how to register, and Sac State student safety ambassadors maintained cleanliness for voter safety.

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Several measures were taken to protect voters from COVID-19. There were markings on the floor with blue tape for social distancing and plexiglass barriers at each of the check-in stations. Personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, face shields, tissues, wipes and hand sanitizer are available as well.  

Despite a virtual semester, student voters turned out to the Modoc Hall throughout the day to exercise their voting rights.

“You know, over the history as African Americans we never really had that freedom to vote, or at least vote properly,” said Daveion Harris, Jr., a Sac State safety ambassador. “But now that we can, it’s important for everybody to get out there and let our voice get heard.”

You know, over the history as African Americans we never really had that freedom to vote, or at least vote properly, but now that we can, it’s important for everybody to get out there and let our voice get heard,

— Daveion Harris, Jr.

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Safety Ambassador Vinay Singh, a mechanical engineering major, volunteered at the Modoc Hall vote center for 11 hours on Election Day Nov. 3, 2020. Singh said it was his civic duty to make sure it was safe for his community to vote. (Isabelle Juarez)

“I voted Democrat because I think they just align with my views,” said Vinay Singh, Sac State student and mechanical engineering major. “Because I believe in their policies and I think the country right now is really divided and we just could use some unity.”

President Robert Nelsen visited the voting center twice on Election Day to speak with the student safety ambassadors and poll workers. 

“We don’t have students on campus, but we wanted to make sure that we kept this tradition going,” Nelsen said of the vote center, which was open during the 2018 midterms and was conceived during the 2016 election. “This is something we started for all of California, just four years ago, and we want to keep it going because COVID-19 is not going to be here forever, but elections will be here forever.”

Nelsen added that the administration was prepared for possible protests that could break out.

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Sacramento resident Michaela Miller said she did not encounter any hardship voting. 

“I probably was a little bit more flustered than I needed to be,” Miller said. “But they actually made it really simple and really easy. It didn’t really scare me for the next time around and they were really nice.”

First-time voter and St. Francis High School senior Sarah Yuke said she chose to drop off her ballot after researching the ballot items with her family.

“If you are young and it’s your first time voting, don’t be scared,” Yuke said. “The workers are nice people, and your vote matters.”

Gideon Tameru, a cardiac sonographer, voted at Modoc Hall before heading to his 11:00 a.m. shift. Though Tameru said he likes President Trump’s tax plan, he said he chose to vote against the “racist ideology” displayed by supporters of the president.

“[I think] I would be in the tax bracket where I would be hurt for voting for Biden, but money doesn’t matter,” Tameru said. “What matters is your ideology when it comes to people. I myself am an immigrant, I came back in ‘91 from Ethiopia. I came here, and made it here. I’m just as American as anyone who was born here or came here from Europe to this melting pot.”

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Baobye Thao, a Sacramento State women’s studies major, turns in her ballot at The WELL on Sac State’s campus Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Thao said voting to her is very important and that even though it was her first time and “nerve-wracking,” it was important that she be a part of the change in the 2020 general election. (Dom Vitiello)

Aubrey Anthony, a Sac State student and political science major, dropped off his mail-in ballot at The WELL dropbox. Anthony said he had many reasons for voting this election, saying voting is the only way to have your voice heard. 

 “I feel like you can’t complain about our political climate or you can’t have grievances with the government if you’re not actively doing your part to participate in it,” Anthony said.