To celebrate National Voter Registration day, we thought it would be fun to share each of our experiences voting for the first time...
The first time I voted was in 2008 at the beginning of my freshman year at Cal. I was very excited to vote because I was finally living on my own and I wanted to ensure that we elect our first African American president. When President Obama was announced the winner, everyone came out of their homes and started celebrating and dancing in the streets. I remembered how euphoric the streets were in Berkeley that night. It was very exciting to be a part of something bigger than myself. As a freshman, I will never forget that adrenaline rush I got from voting!
During the 2008 elections, I had many heated debates about Proposition 8 with coworkers, friends and family. It was in these situations that I learned I did not matter because I couldn't vote. I could argue, disagree or go on as much as I wanted to but it didn't make a difference. After the elections I was determined to get my citizenship before the next election. I haven't missed a election since.
The first time I voted was in the 2008 Presidential Election. It was such a liberating and personal moment for me as a young college student. When you grow up your whole life being told to go back to your country because you ate “smelly” food, had broken English, and participated in weird traditions, you start to question where you belong.
In 2008, I found my answer. The ability to exercise my right to vote and have a voice for what happens in this country is a testament to the blood, sweat, and tears of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and my family’s refugee experience that as a person of color and Southeast Asian Hmong womxn, I belong right here, in America.
I voted in the 2008 President Election, my first year as an undergraduate at UC Davis. I was surrounded by fellow pessimistic undergraduates because they felt their vote did not matter. I understand their disappointment and cynicism. However, that year, there was a certain Senator from Illinois, who supposedly had no chance of winning. Of course, he ended up making history and was elected President of the United States. No matter how small my 1 vote was in a sea of people, I helped shape my government in a way that felt profound.
I vote in local races because they have real impact on my neighborhood and schools. I vote because I want my voice heard, my vote means my local leaders have to pay attention. I vote because it matters what I think.
The first time I voted, I was a month and half into my first year at UC Davis. During that 2008 President Election, I remember having mixed feelings. On the one hand, I wanted to prove that young people needed to be heard, but I also understood why so many of my peers didn't vote because they didn't think it would make a difference.
All that said, voting wasn't exactly easy. I thought to myself, "I got into college, I should be able to understand these propositions. How hard could it be?" Somehow, despite having researched and read each of the propositions, I left the voting booth a little unsure if I casted the right votes and whether I was informed enough. It led me to think, "if I'm having trouble understanding these propositions, I wonder how hard it must be for elders and other community members." This is why I am so proud to be a HIP organizer. We will always be there to support those that need language assistance and voter education. It is a rewarding experience when I see that they are empowered after voting because they were confident and understood what they are voting for.
I was 23 years old when I voted for the first time. It was 2008 and Obama was running for president. Truth is, prior to 23 I was not register to vote. Voting was unfamiliar to my parents and there was no one who ever walked me through the process. Even though I was organizing around community issues, I felt disconnected from politics. It wasn't until a volunteer from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) reached out to me and explained why voting matters to our community. She registered me to vote and that one conversation about our shared API struggle changed my life forever.
The 2004 June Primary election was the first election I was eligible to vote in. I remember heading to the local church during my lunch break. On that ballot, I voted for Governor Howard Dean to be the Democratic nominee for President. It should be noted that Governor Dean had already dropped out of the race by the time this election took place but his name was still on the ballot. I was essentially throwing away my vote because Senator John Kerry was going to win anyways but it was important to me to vote for the person I believed in the most. Of course, Kerry became the Democratic nominee and would eventually lose to George W. Bush.
Several years later, I got a chance to meet Governor Dean and I told him my story about voting him despite it being a "throw away vote." He looked at me and said "there's no such thing as a throw away vote. Every vote matters and it counts with me."