At 73, Janet Brumbaugh did something she never thought she would do in her life – she went to her local polling station to cast a ballot for the very first time.
“I felt like a kid; I was a bit nervous, a little scared. I didn’t know what to expect,” she told Fox News on Tuesday night. “But it was quiet, just 2 or 3 people there. It was strange as I had never done it before – I have never been a political person, I had never thought much about it before, but the more I listened to Trump and Biden, the more I realized I needed to get involved. I walked out feeling good, feeling like maybe my vote can make a difference.”
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Hailing from the 3000-person town of Ford City, in the swing state of Pennsylvania, Brumbaugh said her decision to register was cemented following the first Presidential debate in September and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s comments advocating a “transition” away from coal mining.
“There are a lot of people very worried about losing their jobs,” Brumbaugh noted.
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For her family and tight-knit community, that is their lifeblood – and many are barely holding on amid the economic downturn induced by the protracted coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re people who live day-to-day, our way of life is simple, and we have always gotten by as low income and worked hard to earn what we have,” the mother of 4, a grandmother of 9, and a great-grandmother of 9 explained.
Beyond that, Brumbaugh – who continues to work full-time as a server in a high school cafeteria to make ends meet and raises her 15-year-old great-grandson with her retired husband – said she felt a nagging concern pertaining to Biden’s stance regarding gun control and abortion.
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“Abortion isn’t something that should be taking lightly, and that is something I have believed my whole life,” Brumbaugh stressed. “And I’m a baby boomer; there are a lot of us here. We can’t afford to pay higher taxes or lose any Medicare or social security. It wasn’t clear to me that Biden wouldn’t do that, and there are a lot of us already hurting.”
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However, Brumbaugh was hardly alone in trekking to the polling station for the first time in her life.
According to statistics from the U.S. Elections Project – published just days before the election – almost 85 million people had voted early, more than half the total votes collated in the 2016 cycle. And it’s not just younger voters exercising their constitutional right for the first time either.
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And despite concerns earlier this year that the protracted coronavirus pandemic coupled with an economic recession and widespread protests could hamper voter turnout, early projections show that unprecedented numbers have been driven to polls both in terms of absentee voting, early voting, and on the designated day.
Democratic political data firm TargetSmart documented that of the 6.2 million first-time voters that cast their vote before Tuesday, some 2.6 million were over the age of 40, with a prominent portion of that predicated to be newly naturalized citizens.
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And while Brumbaugh acknowledged that both she and her husband are both high-risk for severe coronavirus complications given their age bracket and underlying health conditions, she remains confident that it can be controlled with sensible measures and believes there needs to be a balance in saving the fragile economy.
“The virus is a big problem – but there are other problems too,” she said. “But if Biden does win, we will just have to deal with it.”
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And regardless of the outcome, Brumbaugh hinted that the cat’s now out of the bag – and a political passion has become a pivotal part of her life.
“I should be ashamed I haven’t voted until now; my family said it’s about time,” she added. “I never cared for politics before, but boy, I do now.”