Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CALIFORNIA VOTER STORY: Lupe Helps Mother In California To Vote

Lupe Lopez from the Center for Community Change tells us her motivation for voting and how she helped her mother vote this election:

The first time I voted I was 18 years old in Puerto Rico. It was a rite of passage, which I hope is as memorable this year for first time voters (like my niece and nephew) as it was for me. At that time, it was a celebration. Election Day was a Holiday. We figured out who was going to stay home with the kids while the rest of us went to the school were we voted. Almost everyone walked, dressed in our best clothes, to our polling places. We all went to our designated classrooms, sat down, waited for the doors to close. In complete silence, each one of us stood up, went to the desk at the front of the room and got our ballots. We went back to our chairs. We voted, we stood up, we returned our ballots, we went back to our chairs. We waited, until the last one of us completed the ballot and returned it to the polling staff. We waited until the whole school voted. Then a bell rang, and all of us left the school at the same time ... it was a day off, we went home, connected with our families and friends, waited for the results. I was so proud to vote.

Today was the first time, since I moved to the United States in 1981, that I felt that sense of purpose, focus and celebration. I moved to Illinois in 2003 to a town of 1,200 people. In my small town, when I voted today at 7:00 am, there were no lines. There was constant movement ... voters coming in and out, voting, talking, greeting each other ... the beauty of voting in a small town is the feeling that we are all in this together, that differences in our choices will matter none when our community needs help, when our children need food, when our elderly need care. We may not be featured in the news, like some of our sister small towns in Wisconsin and Indiana in this election cycle, but our vote is important. We are voting not only for the next President, but also for our representative in Congress, for our state's senate and assembly, for school board, city council, judges and even our auditor and coroner. Our small town vote is important, especially when it comes to local, county and state elections. Vote, vote, vote ... and when you are done voting, help others to vote.

I helped my Mother this election cycle via a long distance call and the internet. I read to my Mother in Spanish, who lives in Southern California and is 83 years old, the multifaceted CA ballot, which included, among other things, 12 propositions. My Mother left her country at age 37. To this day, she will not vote unless she knows what she is voting for or against, and her selections are based in her values and believes. She carefully wrote her decisions on a piece of paper. When she talked earlier today with my niece, she was proud to tell her that today she will ride her electric wheelchair -- which is a scooter type machine -- down the road to her polling place. She will vote on this election, like all the other elections since her 38th year, by herself, with no further help from anyone. My niece, who is in college in Boston, was proud to tell her Grandmother that she had mailed her ballot in time for it to count in California, her home state. She is 19 years old and this is the first time she votes. My Mother, my niece and I differ politically in many ways, but there is one thing we agree on ... voting is not something to take for granted, it is a cherished privilege, and a basic step that links our three generations to our shared future. Whatever your age, whether you live in the big city, the suburbs, a non swing state, or a small town, make your vote count today.

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