COLUMN: My grandmother and I are voting for the first time. Meet us at the polls.
October 11, 2020
My grandmother has been a citizen for 21 years, yet she has never voted before. She personally never felt like there was urgency to vote in the primaries or general elections.
I, on the other hand, have always wanted to vote. I knew that voting could be one of the only ways I could have my voice directly counted on a national level.
It means so much to me that my grandmother and I will be casting our first votes in this upcoming election. We often underestimate how powerful a vote can be, but I believe this high-stakes election has reminded us how a single vote will impact the next four years.
It’s vital that we encourage every single person to go to the polls. I’m ecstatic that my grandmother now sees the value of civic engagement and can make voting a habit.
I also find our first voting experience powerful because we are Latinas. The Latino community faced discrimination when trying to vote, and it feels so empowering to exercise the rights my ancestors fought for. Our vote is more than just who we want to be president, it’s our voice. I’m excited to be a part of another generation of Latinas who will be civically engaged.
However, political topics are taboo in some families. It can make family members uncomfortable or lead to angry conversations. Powerful outcomes can occur when we bring up these topics with our family. We can learn that we have more in common, or we can have an opportunity to educate each other. We need to start normalizing having political conversations with our family members.
We had never discussed candidates and policies before, but I’m glad we did. It was awkward at first, but it transitioned into a conversation about our beliefs. If my grandmother was unfamiliar with a topic, I’d share with her facts and my opinion. It was an intimate, necessary conversation for both of us. I feel closer to my grandmother, and excited that we can share this experience together.
I’m hoping that her newfound excitement will spread to her friends. Members of her generation aren’t immersed in political exposure like myself. I am following candidates on Twitter, listening to political podcasts and watching the political news. She gets a narrow version of that, but nonetheless, she was able to inform herself through watching the debates and watching the news. This can spread to her friends and get them to the polls as well.
This could be the first step in integrating politics to our conversations more often. It doesn’t have to be restricted to the election, but to policies. I want to start sharing how certain policies are harmful to certain communities, especially the Latino community. I want my grandmother to be aware of injustice so she can work against it.
Talking about politics doesn’t end with my older relatives, but extends to my younger ones too. My grandmother and I can set an example for my younger cousins and siblings about the importance of being civically engaged. They don’t have to wait until they’re 18 to become involved. I want them to grow up and feel empowered by their agency.
We can redirect our focus on how we introduce voting for our relatives. We can frame it as saying, “Let’s be a part of democracy and use our agency to share our voice.” I believe the upcoming election is going to require everyone to show up.
The next four years relies on us to show up to the polls. There is too much at stake for us to take our agency for granted. Our democracy is depending on us to show up. I cannot wait to be with my grandmother and use our voice to create a better for the United States.
I want to create a better future for my grandmother, my cousins and my siblings to thrive in. Voting for the first time with my grandmother will mean we will create that future for us together.