Posts Tagged ‘why vote?’


I haven’t missed voting in an election since I registered in 1974 at age 18. The first election I voted in was my state’s (California) Gubernatorial election when we (myself included) elected Gerry Brown, Jr. in June of 1974. To me, voting is a crucial right; one that I hate to waste, so I dutifully vote in every election.

One year, when I was doing volunteer work for MALDEF* and I had to drive an hour to my assignment on election day. I asked that I be allowed to vote first then make the drive. I was the first one in the door at my precinct that day. I had to drive from northern Los Angeles County to Orange County for my poll watching duties. I got to Orange County in time to go off to the first on a long list of precincts where problems had been reported. My job was to watch the precinct, mostly from the outside, and make sure there were no irregularities. In a few instances, we were asked to watch from inside (in precincts where problems had been reported during previous elections). What were we watching for? Voting irregularities. In some precincts voters had reported that they had been denied a ballot, even though they were eligible to vote. In other precincts, Spanish speaking registered voters were not given a Spanish language ballot which basically meant they couldn’t vote as they didn’t understand the English ballot. It was our job to just be present, observe, and if we were asked (by Voters) to assist in getting the proper ballot, we were to just approach the precinct workers and quote the law to them without getting involved otherwise. We also had phone numbers we could call if there was a problem that needed to be addressed and/or documented. In some instances, none that I observed, MALDEF staff attorneys could be notified and had the authority to accompany voters to the polls to get the correct ballot.

It was very interesting. The year I worked for them (in the 90’s) was the first time in recent history that an anti-immigrant law was placed on the ballot in California so it was doubly important and there was high tension in the atmosphere. Some people called in to get help leaving work to vote as some employers were refusing to allow their workers to leave work to vote. Our attorneys made a lot of phone calls to employers that day.

I like to think that my poll watching work made a difference that year even though the proposition that we supporting failed. (It was put back on the ballot, with slight variation in language, a couple of years later and passed!). I like to thing that my volunteering to register voters made a difference. Maybe it didn’t. However, to me, it was a very important thing to do. It was just as important as voting myself.

Even though I’ve thought seriously about not voting in this election, I will vote. I am not sure if I will vote for either Presidential ticket but I will vote for state and local issues. I just can’t see not voting. It goes against everything I’ve ever believed in.

*Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

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