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19th Amendment & First-Time Voters

Woman smiling and wearing a t-shirt saying vote, poses in front of a white wall.

Carolina Borjas is a recent graduate from Pepperdine University where she obtained her bachelor’s in international studies (Political Science) and French Studies. She is currently a Programs intern at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues, and the barista behind the blog Coffee Talks on Global Affairs, a blog dedicated to make complicated topics a casual conversation.

Two years ago, in the blink of an eye, I became a U.S. citizen. As they swore all of us in from so many different religions and backgrounds, our voices united in saying the citizenship oath and the Pledge of Alliance. My heart was beating fast and my cheeks were wet from tears of joy.  I couldn't believe it: I was a citizen of the United State of America, a beautiful country founded by immigrants. After the ceremony, we all proceeded to hug our loved ones, take pictures with the American flag, shake hands with the judge, and to receive our citizenship certificate.

Once I was a citizen, I start asking myself more about voting.  What even is voting? A question that we are often too afraid to ask. According to the Center of Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, since the 2016 election, more than 15 million young people turned 18 and are newly eligible voters.

Whether you were born in a post-9/11 era or just became a U.S. citizen like me, this is our time to ask questions and let our voices be heard by casting our ballot. Also, what better year to vote than 2020, the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment!

The bravery of the women who formed an activist movement in the 20th century on behalf of American women to vote amaze me. Even though many of them were American citizens, women did not have the right to vote. So, they decided to change history. Despite risking their lives for their beliefs daily, they did not give up.  Years later, in 1920, their dreams became a reality, and the 19th Amendment was born.

Father Tom Hurley of my church Old Saint Patrick’s also inspires me to be an active citizen through acts of transformative kinship and radical inclusivity by making a commitment to embody and advocate the values and actions that influence our society in positive ways. One example of this in the bible is seen in Matthew 5:14, 16 ““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 16 Let your light so shine before [all], that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Voting is an important way that we can collectively influence our society in positive ways, but it is not as simple to do as it may seem. 

When asking some of my first-time voter friends their opinion on the 2020 elections, most of them answered: "How do I even register how to vote?" "I don't like politics. Why does this concern me?"

 

At that moment, I knew that more than 15 million first-time voters didn't even know where to begin (myself included).  The responses of the first-time voters gave me a wakeup call and inspired me to create a voter's guide-map with only five steps.

Here are five easy steps on how first-time voters can vote in any elections.

Step One: Know what you stand for

I must say voting is pretty cool.

Whether local or presidential elections, this is the time to evaluate your community values and confront issues that might be preventing it from reaching its potential. Maybe it is climate change, student debt, immigration, withdrawing troops from overseas, reinforcing economic protections, or other issues that you find essential for your community. By determining which issues are vital for you, you can build your criteria for a candidate you want as your representative. After doing this, you can look at what people running for office have to offer for you and your community.

Step Two: Check if you are registered to vote and register

Check if you are registered to vote or register at U.S. Vote Foundation. For this step, all you need is your driver's license number and your social security number.

Step Three: Know where to vote

You have three options: voting physically, using ballot drop boxes if available in your state, or dropping off your ballot at your local politician's office if possible. If you chose to vote in person, make sure to look up the nearest place to vote where you live at U.S. Vote Foundation and check out if your state has early voting at vote.org. Voting early (41 states have this option) allows you to vote as soon as 46 days before Election Day.

Step Four: Mark your calendars

The worst thing that can happen for someone is to forget an important date. Whether this is physically writing the date down in a paper calendar, a planner, or your phone, make sure that you know the important dates.

Step Five: Remind and encourage your family and friends to vote.

Step five is to hype up this moment. While you may not be able to get together with your friends physically, you can throw fantastic Zoom parties during Election Day to make sure everyone tunes into what is going on. This might mean giving it a shot at your baking skills and baking "vote" themed pastries or maybe getting your family together with some snacks. Either way, the point of this step is for you and all your community to get excited about Election Day.

So, I hope to see you post your pictures with your "I voted" sticker on social media and share them with your friends and family. Don't forget that every single vote counts, including yours.

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.