Freshman Mark Allen of Sacramento, California, spent Tuesday evening glued to CNN’s coverage of election results to see the effect of his vote on the future of his country. “This is the first time I can vote, and I am so glad I made my voice heard,” says Allen. “I have been waiting a full eighteen years to make a difference in the direction of this country. Tonight, I finally made that dream a reality.”

Allen’s ballot joined those of more than seventeen million registered Californian voters to choose 55 out of 538 representatives to the electoral college. California’s winner-take-all system awarded all 55 of these votes to Obama, the majority winner of the staunchly blue state.

When CNN predicted that California would go to Obama one minute after polls closed, Allen cheered along with his classmates at the knowledge that he had managed to change Obama’s fate.“This election was close, and I know that my vote really counted,” says Allen, who self-identifies as a liberal along with more than half of his state. “I just wanted the outcome of this election to personally reflect the preferences of normal, everyday Americans like me.”

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