Senior Citizens and Voting in 2020


A picture of an early voting line taken a few weeks ago in Nashville by Michael Scott Evans.

By Nicholas Evans, Reporter

2020 has been chaotic. We have a pandemic, a rise in police brutality, people protesting for rights, people protesting about a piece of cloth, and more. All in the span of a few weeks; or, I guess it would be 10 months.

And now, we’re at our current situation: the presidential election. It’s pretty different this year; there’s been a considerable amount of voting encouragement and voter registration, there are plenty of controversies about mail-in voting, and, of course, there’s a pandemic.

First-time, mainly teenage voters have been the most talked about this year, causing very little talk about senior voters; at least not enough, that is. And they’re probably going to be the most important voters in this election, with COVID alone being a big force driving a lot of senior voters away from Trump, according to MarketWatch. And with COVID everywhere, it might not be the safest for senior citizens to vote. So, with all of this messy confusion, I went directly to a few senior citizens and asked them what they thought about voting this year.

“Given the pandemic and in view of my advanced age and Type 2 diabetes, I feel neither comfortable nor safe voting in person,” says John Sobrero, a chef and Mensa member that resides in Franklin, Tennessee. “Past voting experiences have entailed long waits in lines full of people who are quite close. This is even the case with early voting, depending on the ‘luck of the draw.'”

“As long as I wear a mask, social distance, and wash my hands hourly, I feel as safe voting in person as I do buying groceries in person, going to church in person, going to the doctor in person, or going out to eat in person,” says Tom Lawrence, former WAKM radio host and voice actor from Franklin, Tennessee. “But just because I’m being careful as much as I can doesn’t mean that others around me are being smart too. I don’t want any situation to force me to run away into a shell. That’s probably as bad as the virus; but, I still must be careful and not ask for trouble.”

Mail-in voting is surprisingly controversial this year, with worries of fraud and not being counted. Tom thinks that, “Mail-in voting is probably how we all need to vote. I wouldn’t have much confidence in voting on-line though. Mail-in voting fits social distancing parameters. I have more confidence in the U.S. Postal Service than just about any other department of federal government. I’ve been qualified to vote by mail for ten years now; but, I’ve never taken advantage of it.”

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have Bill Evans, a Texas Republican, saying that, “As in years past, absentee ballots for people out of the country, military personnel and the elderly is acceptable; however mail-in voting for the general public would be vulnerable to mishandling and fraud.”

John seems to be generally favorable about it, saying that he thinks, “mail-in voting is an excellent option, although I am concerned with changes in the post office which may delay the pace of the postal system.”

Of course, early voting has already started, so I asked what their experiences were like. Audrey Evans, a Tennessee democrat says, “I voted the first day early voting started. The doors opened at 10 A.M. I got there at 9:10 A.M. There were about 20 people in front of me. I knew a couple of people there and we started talking; not about politics, just everyday things which helped pass the time. Before I knew it the doors opened about 20 mins early. I waited in line to show my driver’s license, which took a couple of minutes. Then I went to the voting booth, voted, and left. It was easy and simple. If you had a question the volunteers were there to help you.”

“I voted early in-person in Spring Hill yesterday,” Tom says. “I had to wait in line for close to an hour; but, I found the time listening to everyone else in line interesting.  A lot of people brought their children so they could see the process.  When I got inside the building, several people recognized me and that made me uncomfortable.  The process itself was very easy.  To be honest with you, I went to vote specifically against someone.  That’s not good; but, that’s my reasoning.  I’ve been voting now for 49 years and I’ve never voted specifically against someone before.  But now I have.  Maybe next time I’ll have someone to vote FOR.  I hope so.”

In contrast, John describes his mail-in voting experience. “The state of Tennessee is very restrictive in the use of absentee ballots, however since I am older than 65, I was able to apply for an absentee ballot. Once approved, they sent a ballot and mailing materials. I filled out the ballot and mailed it the same day it arrived. Once approved, there is a process by which one can check on the status of the ballot. Mine was received and will be counted on election day.”

I also wanted to know if they had any specific concerns about voting in the 2020 election. Stunningly, there don’t seem to be many concerns held by the four of them. John says that, “My overwhelming concern regarding this or any election is that I do my part and vote. It is stunning how many people choose not to vote. That’s a waste of an important right and a shameful abnegation of responsibility.”

According to Bill, “As with 2016,  intimidation at the polls is a concern.  The most troubling aspects of voting in 2020 are the uninformed and misinformed voter.  Voters who received their information from social media without performing any background checks for validity and those who receive their information from biased or uninformed sources.”

Tom claims that, “I am an eternal optimist; so, I have enough faith in my country that I don’t have any concerns about voting.  I do worry that many people don’t do their homework and don’t really find out what the candidates really stand for.  I simply want to believe what they say; but, I’m forced to believe what they do.”

Finally, I asked them if there was any advice they had for new or future voters; and I got some really good responses.

Bill gave a very direct, and to-the-point response. “Vote based on solid and verifiable information.  Do not vote from emotion or feelings. Voting is the responsibility of every citizen and should be approached seriously and with conviction.”

Audrey gave a more cooperative approach. “The advice I would give to first-time voters; if you are not sure which party you want to be affiliated with, read as much as you can on both parties and both candidates. If you are still not sure which party is the right one for you, talk to your parents or other family members.”

John also gave a direct, but slightly uplifting answer. “My advice to the new voter is to vote in every election. We tend to pay a great deal of attention to the national and state elections yet local elections (school boards, municipalities, and county elections) have a much greater impact on our lives.”

And, finally, Tom gave a lengthy, personal answer. While, yes, it is directed towards me, it’s something that I still want to share.

“This advice is for you – four years from now when you vote for the first time. It’s nobody’s business how you vote.  It’s important that you know why you are voting the way you will.  Don’t vote because someone you know is voting that way.  Vote the way YOU want to.  You will win some.  You will lose some.  At 70, I have found out that I’m not a Democrat or a Republican.  I have found out that I’m not a liberal or a conservative.  If the liberal is right, I’ll vote their way.  If the conservative is right, I’ll vote their way.  Sometimes a candidate’s style wins me over.  Sometimes a candidate can turn me off.  In my lifetime people like Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton have won me over.  In my lifetime people like Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush wound up being good, if not great, presidents.”

In conclusion, I think I’ve gotten some very, very good information, that, hopefully, you can use to your advantage. I’m sure you’ve heard this a billion times before, but, if you’re of age to vote, vote. If you’re not, try to spread lots of encouragement. I hope this helped provide some insight into this year’s election.