Going the distance: Students cross Illinois borders to ensure their votes are counted

By Ryan Rosenberger, Staff Reporter

Gianella Goan

Senior musical theatre major Allie Magee and her partner Blake Kolesa, a Loyola University Chicago law student, drove 18 hours from Chicago to Magee’s hometown in Rockwall County, Texas. But, this was not a typical road trip—it was to vote in the upcoming general election and help others get to the polls.

The two of them left Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 28 to participate in the last day of early voting in Texas—Friday, Oct. 30, Magee said.

Magee had to go to Texas to vote because that is where she is registered. She also wanted to vote with her younger sister, who is voting for the first time.

Because of repeated claims made by President Donald Trump about the legitimacy of mail-in voting, many voters have found themselves distrustful of voting by mail.

“I’m from a big family of women, and it’s a very big deal for us,” Magee said. “We know we haven’t had the right for very long.”

Magee said she had mixed feelings about traveling home to vote, and it was not due to the long hours jammed in a car.

“I’m very excited to get to go vote … but it also has a layer of anxiousness, because it’s either going to be really good or really bad,” Magee said.

Because Trump has not committed to a peaceful transfer of power, Magee said it was important for her to vote early in this election.

Kolesa, who voted by mail in his hometown of Staunton, Illinois, said he joined Magee on the trip to assist her in getting people to the polls and promote the importance of voting.

They will spend the days leading up to the election making calls and engaging in relational organizing, which is the practice of trying to bring friends and family to the polls, Kolesa said.

“You have immigrants who are allowed to vote, who have become American citizens … [or] maybe you have people who are left-leaning, but they have lived in this deep red state [and] maybe they’re very passionate but aren’t registered to vote because they never thought it would matter,” Kolesa said.

According to a report by the Knight Foundation that surveyed 4,000 full-time college students, approximately half of college students plan on voting by mail, which includes 63% of Democratic voters and 31% of Republican voters. Thirty-nine percent of students plan to vote in-person, according to the report.

Gianella Goan, a senior graphic design major and graphic designer for the Chronicle, said she and her sister went back home to Memphis, Tennessee, to vote because she does not trust that a mail-in ballot would make it in time to be counted.

“[I’ve heard] stories of friends that I’ve had, who requested a ballot and then it took a month to get it, and then they had to send it back and they weren’t even sure if they made it,” Goan said. “Just to be on the safe side, I thought it was safer and quicker to fly back to Memphis and vote there.”

Goan said another part of her decision to vote in Memphis instead of registering to vote at her Chicago address was to be able to vote for local candidates and help out her peers in her home state.

Sophomore filmmaking major Trinity Branch, who flew home to New Mexico to vote early, said she voted there because she plans on moving back after she graduates.

Branch said New Mexico has a large Native American population, and she wanted to vote in the state to make sure the “right people” would be elected into office to represent their needs.

Magee said Texas, traditionally a red state, has a chance to go blue this year, and her vote could make a large impact.

“It’s important to me to not only make sure my vote gets counted, but it is counted where it needs it more,” Magee said.