A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Friend Aya: Inspiration for Defeating the Voter Restriction Amendment

With voter ID on the ballot this year, an argument for why everyone should be voting no that many of us use is that “voting is our right”. While I 100% agree that voting is a right we all have, one which should never be taken away, it is important to remember that voting is also a privilege we have by being citizens of this country.

One of my good friends, Aya Elmileik, who has always been recognized as a citizen of Sudan, recently gained dual citizenship in the United States. She will be able to vote for the first time ever this year. Talking to her about the power we have when we get to use our vote has ignited my passion to make sure voter ID does not passed.

Aya is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and has been living in the U.S. for twelve years. During those years she has had no say in the policies and candidates voted in; even though their decisions affected her and the ones she loves just as much as the rest of us. Aya mentioned feeling extremely frustrated not being able to vote on issues that directly affected her. She shared how hard her family fought to bring them here in order to have great opportunities such as education and the right to vote. While Aya’s situation is different in the fact that she wasn't able to vote while in the process of getting her citizenship, many people who may face the consequence of losing their right to vote because of voter ID are a part of a family who has citizenship but have also faced hardship and had to work harder than most because they recently immigrated here.

While talking to her about the frustration one feels when they are not allowed to vote, I couldn't help but think about those of us who could potentially be losing our right to vote next election. If voter ID passes it will become extremely difficult – if not impossible – for thousands of people to vote. Can you imagine the anger that could result from this? Thousands of people who have always used their power of voting to partake in this democratic country could be stripped of this right. It terrifies me to think about how many people won’t turn out to the polls next year if there are multiple obstacles put in front of them to even get there.

When I asked Aya why it is so important for her to be able to vote, she said that she cannot just sit back and not vote. She knows how it feels to have a voice that can’t be used to influence the decisions this country makes. Voting is a responsibility and an opportunity we have because we are citizens of this country; many across the globe will never have this opportunity.

Being allowed to vote and influence our country is something many of us easily take advantage of. Aya has felt, first hand, what it is like to be left out of the democratic process; I hope many of us aren’t able to relate to this feeling next year. While voter ID won’t make it impossible for everyone to vote if it is passed, it will make it a heck of a lot more difficult for those of us who are students, elderly, living away from home, homeless…the list goes on.

As November 6 approaches, we all need to remember Aya’s words, and also reflect on why it is so important for each of us to be able to go to the polls every year and use our ballot as our voice in the decisions our government makes.

Andrea Ramaley, MPIRG HECUA Intern, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

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