July 28, 2014

I just voted

Editor’s Note: The below is our Maya Ono’s post about her 4th week as an AAA-Fund sponsored fellow at Nate Shinagawa’s campaign. Read her reports from week 1 and week 2 & week 3. The AAA-Fund has endorsed Nate as a candidate for the US House of Representatives from NY’s 23rd district.”

Nate Shinagawa

Recently, the issue of voting has been a popular topic of conversation among my group of friends. What do you say to a disenfranchised “jaded” youth who doesn’t really believe that her voice will make a difference?

According to the US census, there are over 314 million citizens in the United States. Out of the 213 Americans who were eligible to vote in 2008, only 145 million registered.1 In 2008, all records were broken when 130 million people came to the polls,2 the highest number in recorded history. In other words, 41% of Americans, the most who had ever voted, decided the political future of 100% of Americans.

The fact is that we all enjoy certain freedoms of living in a democracy. We hear about how “freedom isn’t free”, alluding to the troops who fight overseas to protect us. But if you think about it, the unsung heroes of democracy are ordinary people who vote. Without them, quite literally, democracy would not exist. Those who don’t vote but choose to whine and complain, enjoy the freedoms of living in the United States on the backs of others who cast a ballot.

The act of voting is proving to be even more important now, as voter ID laws threaten to asphyxiate the political voices of seniors, veterans, minorities and students.

In 2008, a group of 80 and 90 year old Nuns presented out of date passports at an Indiana polling location and were turned away.3 Gil Paar, a veteran living in Wisconsin, presented his veteran’s ID to cast a ballot for the school board elections. He was turned away because a veteran’s ID isn’t considered valid identification by Scott Walker, the governor, the bill’s largest cheerleader.4 95 year old Florence Hessing, also of Wisconsin, has voted in every election that she was eligible to in her lifetime. Now with Wisconsin’s new voter ID laws, she would need to get a certified birth certificate to obtain a photo ID because her driver’s license is expired. Only, she was born by a midwife in 1917 when record keeping wasn’t a priority and there is no record of her birth.5 In some states, private university student IDs will not be accepted, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of students.

The New York Times cites that approximately 5 millions people could be affected by voter ID laws. In other words, 5 million out of the currently eligible 213 million Americans will no longer be able to cast a ballot without valid photo ID as described by the specific laws in that state.

“Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done”, Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Turzai (R) famously stated after voter ID laws were passed in his state.

The truth is that voter ID laws represent a threat to our democracy which is already underrepresented. Staff, volunteers, and interns at the Nate Shinagawa campaign headquarters are calling voters across the district, urging them to get out and vote! Single moms, graduate students, grandfathers, a grocery clerk, a lawyer, and a registered republican come into the office and sit side by side to make sure their neighbors are voting.

I just cast my absentee ballot. And as my vote floats through a sea of love letters, phone bills, and postcards, I will continue fight to ensure that not only my voice is heard but that every American voice is heard in this election and those to come.

To find your polling location, go to Google’s Politics & Elections homepage and type in your voting address.

To find out more about Nate Shinagawa or to contribute to Nate’s campaign, please go to www.nateshinagawa.com.

References:

  1. Strict voting laws affect millions of Americans
  2. 2008 turnout shatters all records
  3. The Right to Vote
  4. Veteran Denied the Right to Vote
  5. The Victims of Voter ID Laws

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