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College Students In Western Pennsylvania On Voting


Meanwhile, young people are a critical voting bloc in today's election. And NPR's Elissa Nadworny is in western Pennsylvania, where she's been talking with college students.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: It's 8 a.m. when I meet up with Lucy Belleau.

LUCY BELLEAU: Hello, hello.


She's a senior studying Spanish education at Mercyhurst University in Erie, and she's got to walk over to the polls before her classes start.

BELLEAU: It's about seven minutes up the street, so it's not too bad.

NADWORNY: She's from a small town an hour away and says it wasn't until college that she started being more politically engaged.

BELLEAU: It felt like nothing in the world really affected me yet - and then coming here and realizing, like, oh, no, I'm an adult now; this is all affecting me; this is going to be my future and my friends' future.

NADWORNY: When we get to the Methodist Church to vote, there are no lines.

BELLEAU: Yes, I am.

NADWORNY: Belleau heads in to vote in her first presidential election, and I wait outside.

What did it feel like to vote?

BELLEAU: It was really awesome. You know, I got to - you put your ballot into the little machine, and you actually get to see the number tick up. So I was No. 96 here today. So I'm very excited.

NADWORNY: Do you feel comfortable telling me who you voted for?


NADWORNY: Tell me why.

BELLEAU: I guess it's just one of those things. Once you put it in writing, people use it against you for some reason or another, and I don't like that.

NADWORNY: Holden Sczerba is not as tight-lipped. He's a junior studying political science at Mercyhurst, and he's voting for President Trump today. He's been thinking about politics and voting since he was little.

HOLDEN SCZERBA: I mean, in fourth grade, I was John McCain for Halloween.

NADWORNY: He actually drove home about two hours from Erie to vote in person. He called me from the polling place.

SCZERBA: So I am in line. There's about...


SCZERBA: ...Eighteen in front of us. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I already counted.

NADWORNY: He's wavered a bit on who to vote for, but spending time with his relatives this weekend helped clarify things.

SCZERBA: Being home and surrounded by my family and watching the rallies and everything like that made me more comfortable with it, actually - feeling, like, really good about it and excited.

NADWORNY: After waiting in line for an hour, he called with an update - mission accomplished on his first presidential election.

SCZERBA: There was a moment when it first popped up - like, the choices for president. I was like, oh, wow, this is here. This is real. This is actually happening now.

NADWORNY: Sczerba said it took him just a few seconds to vote Republican down the ticket. He's heading back to campus this afternoon to watch returns.

SCZERBA: There's a bell on campus that you're allowed to ring at any time if something good happens.

NADWORNY: If Trump wins, he says he'll be out there ringing that bell no matter what hour it is.

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Erie, Pennsylvania.

(SOUNDBITE OF YPPAH'S "NEVER MESS WITH SUNDAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.