Voting: I don't love it, but I'll always do it.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Artwork by Faviana Rodriguez
by: Nina Jacinto

I'm not the kind of person who gets excited about voting. I've heard stories from friends of going with their families to the polls as children, of preserving their "I voted" stickers on laptops. I was never like that. My parents always voted, but it wasn't an event. More of a responsibility - as immigrants, they had to earn their vote, and I suspect they never wanted to take it for granted.

The states where I grew up didn't help my enthusiasm. I spent my childhood in Texas and have been in California ever since.  In my states, there's always a clear winner and loser when it comes to Presidents - we know where those electoral votes are going even before the campaigns start. That's how it's always been, how it will always be. My votes have hardly felt special or significant, like they probably would have if I lived in New Hampshire.

Voting in local elections made things feel more significant but still not particularly thrilling. There was always so much rhetoric to weed through, so many arguments back and forth that were never targeted to me because I've never been a swing voter or an undecided. People don't want me in focus groups to determine what language resonates with me. I'm not courted by the Gallup pollers.

Voting feels like an inconvenience more than anything. An important inconvenience. But I do vote, even though my individual vote doesn't feel really important. Despite the limitations of our country's bipartisan setup, and the electoral college, and even voter laws, I think voting is a privilege. It's something that, under different circumstances, I may not have had. It doesn't make me feel like my voice is being heard, but it reminds me that I have a voice and that I'm able to use it in a number of ways. It helps me acknowledge the thousands who fought for their right to be counted. I don't think voting needs to feel idealistic and warm and fuzzy. It can feel complicated and a bit nauseating and maybe even hopeless, especially when we don't agree with 100% of a person or policy. But I will still vote.

We want voting to feel like a way to create all the changes to the systems that impact us. The reality is, voting is just one of the ways we speak up. We organize. We write. We tell our stories. We advocate for new policies and laws. We canvass our neighborhoods and make asks of our decision makers when there are no cameras watching. We challenge and criticize the people we elect to hold them accountable for the promises they made. Combined, it's a great big picture of what it means to make our communities and country better.

So vote. Do all the things you do, and also vote. If you can't vote, tell people to vote. If you don't know what to vote for, find ways to help you make a decision. It may feel too insignificant to matter, but it's also too important to ignore.

Nina is the Development Manager at Forward Together. She loves the internet and a good cup of tea. You can follow her on twitter @msninaricha