Before election night, several first-time voters here in Washington shared their reasons for voting and their hopes for the election with The Seattle Times. Now that election night has come and gone, and while the nation still waits anxiously for thousands more ballots to be counted, these Washingtonians reflected on what it was like to experience this year’s election as newly minted voters.

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We asked each of them Wednesday morning how they spent election night, what they hoped and feared as results rolled in, and how it felt to vote in their first presidential election. Here’s what they told us: 

Nelago Nuunyango, 38, Orting

After moving to the U.S from Namibia in 2012 and becoming a U.S. citizen in 2018, Nelago Nuunyango (left) voted for the first time this year with her two sons Megameno (center) and Prince by her side. (Lindsey Garland Photography)
After moving to the U.S from Namibia in 2012 and becoming a U.S. citizen in 2018, Nelago Nuunyango (left) voted for the first time this year with her two sons Megameno (center) and Prince by her side. (Lindsey Garland Photography)

“I will forever feel good that at least I have exercised my civic duty as a proud American and have voted.”

“I spent the election night watching the results closely of course. But then after 10 p.m., I retreated to my bedroom to watch South African soap operas. I was just shaking, thinking that [President Donald] Trump may win again when I had some hope that America may be able to redeem itself. 

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I was not bothered that they couldn’t declare a winner by the end of the night. Because of the mail-in ballots, the counting was going to take reasonably longer. I was, however, definitely dismayed that the election is this close, given the stark difference between Joe Biden and Trump.

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My hopes are that Biden wins, and it is looking good for Biden. My concern is that Trump is going to flood America, and quite frankly the world, with baseless claims of voter fraud. He has already begun, and he may never accept the results of the election if they don’t go his way. 

I feel like my organizing work with the Washington State Democrats and my advocacy work at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility has made a significant impact in electing Democrats here in Washington state. My feelings would have been more affected if I had cast my vote in Pennsylvania, for example — which is a state I am watching closely right now — my vote mattered over there. I however will forever feel good that at least I have exercised my civic duty as a proud American and have voted.”

Dean Powell, 20, Redmond

Dean Powell, a 20-year-old student at Lake Washington Institute of Technology shown Oct. 27, 2020, grew up in a conservative Christian family. He registered to vote immediately after turning 18 because he knew that Donald Trump would be running for a second term, and he feels strongly that Trump will uphold the values of his Christian upbringing.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Dean Powell, a 20-year-old student at Lake Washington Institute of Technology shown Oct. 27, 2020, grew up in a conservative Christian family. He registered to vote immediately after turning 18 because he knew that Donald Trump would be running for a second term, and he feels strongly that Trump will uphold the values of his Christian upbringing. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

“I had a completely different set of expectations than what happened.” 

“I was at the rally for Loren Culp in Tenino, Washington. I really believed that enough people were tired of Jay Inslee that Culp would win. In a sense, it was sad being at the rally when we heard he didn’t win. All the people in the room had a ton of faith that he would win, and it was also sad at first when it was announced that Culp had a 55% lead, but then when it was announced that he didn’t win it was disappointing. 

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I was very disappointed when no winner [for president] was declared. It was disappointing as I had a completely different set of expectations than what happened. 

My concerns for the next week or so is that the media will try to declare a winner when it might not be true. I’m worried that the media will try to declare Biden a winner before all the votes are counted.”

Marta Boros Horvath, 78, Seattle 

Marta Boros Horvath, shown at her Seattle home Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, took the final step toward naturalization by completing her citizenship interview in October. After being here since the 1960s, Horvath voted for the first time in the Nov. 3 election. “I want this country to stay democratic because that’s why I’m here,” said Horvath, 78, who arrived in the U.S. at age 24 from Hungary. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Marta Boros Horvath, shown at her Seattle home Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, took the final step toward naturalization by completing her citizenship interview in October. After being here since the 1960s, Horvath voted for the first time in the Nov. 3 election. “I want this country to stay democratic because that’s why I’m here,” said Horvath, 78, who arrived in the U.S. at age 24 from Hungary. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

“I want the United States to be protected for my children and their children. [I want it] to stay the United States that attracted millions of refugees and immigrants to these shores.”

“I am at my daughter’s home in Monroe, and we are following the results on TV. … Obviously, there is no winner declared yet. I am disappointed but not surprised by this.

I hope that my candidate will be the winner. I also hope that the nation can unite once again, that democracy can prevail and the Constitution will be respected and protected. After all, it is the greatest Constitution in this world!

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I feel that more is at stake for me now that I’m a citizen. I want the United States to be protected for my children and their children. [I want it] to stay the United States that attracted millions of refugees and immigrants to these shores.”

 Kaitlyn Chin, 18, Renton

Kaitlyn Chin, 18, is deeply invested in Referendum 90, because she believes education about consent and respect in sex education could help prevent others from being sexually assaulted. “Young people are the future,” she said. “If you want young people to start to grow up, you have to give them the tools that they need to use their voice.” Referendum 90 passed in Washington. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Chin)
Kaitlyn Chin, 18, is deeply invested in Referendum 90, because she believes education about consent and respect in sex education could help prevent others from being sexually assaulted. “Young people are the future,” she said. “If you want young people to start to grow up, you have to give them the tools that they need to use their voice.” Referendum 90 passed in Washington. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Chin)

Whoever wins will change the fate of our nation drastically, and if we’re being honest, it’s quite hard to focus on schoolwork when you’re scared your rights are hanging in the air …”

“I spent election night flipping channels through the different election coverage channels and doing homework or drawing when I felt like I needed a break from watching. My mom and I sat together and we were both feeling pretty anxious. We discussed our surprises and tried to ease each other’s anxieties and remember that not every vote has been counted yet.

Going in, I knew that the election wouldn’t be decided by the night of, because of the massive amounts of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. What I wasn’t expecting was how close the race would be. I wasn’t expecting a nail-biter.

My hopes are that the people fight for democracy. Every ballot needs to be counted and that’s what I’m holding on to. … Whoever wins will change the fate of our nation drastically, and if we’re being honest, it’s quite hard to focus on schoolwork when you’re scared your rights are hanging in the air or your safety is in danger because of the polarization in this country right now.

Voting for the first time has definitely changed my feelings about the election. I remember the 2016 race when Donald Trump won. I was shocked because of the polling but other than that it didn’t feel that important. This year was very different for me. Knowing that the people I grew up with are all now able to vote made this election feel much more personal and made me feel a lot less disconnected than the last election. 

I was so happy to see Referendum 90 win with such a big margin [in Washington]. It was wonderful to see how supportive Washingtonians are about comprehensive sex education and I feel relieved and empowered to know generations of students will have access to the tools they need to protect themselves.”