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I can ask my mom’s advice about almost anything, because she’s already gone through so many of the things I’m facing for the first time. But because she became a naturalized U.S. citizen just six months before my 18th birthday, we experienced voting for the first time together.
Despite our initial intimidation and the fact that as a young person and a naturalized citizen, we belong to groups that tend to vote at lower rates, neither of us saw not voting as an option. My mom came to the U.S. when she was 11 years-old and immediately immersed herself in American politics, an example that she has encouraged me to follow. It’s hard for me to remember a time growing up when the news wasn’t on. As a family, we even volunteered as canvassers to help get out the vote.
When my mom and I prepared to vote for the first time – her in person on Election Day and me via absentee from college – the bulk of our Maryland ballot concerned local offices and issues like Orphans’ Courts and county police unions. After scouring the local news and reading a voter guide that arrived in the mail from the League of Women Voters of Maryland (LWVMD), we got a deeper understanding of the ballot, as well as the wide range of issues we could influence as citizens in our state and larger democracy. We felt informed and empowered to vote.
When the time came to vote, I was happy to find that Maryland’s absentee voting instructions were incredibly clear. Back home on Election Day, my mother prepared for the cold November weather at the polls by wearing her favorite heavy sweater, but the line moved so briskly she never got the chance to get cold. The poll workers were courteous and helpful, and both of my parents were in and out of the polling place in less than 30 minutes.
As first-time voters, my mother and I learned that comprehensive, non-partisan voter information resources and hardworking election officials make a huge difference — even for committed and politically active citizens. They help ensure that voting feels like the guaranteed right that it is.
That Tuesday night, as vote totals started pouring in, my mom and I stayed on the phone for almost two hours to see the races play out. Every 60 seconds, the results website I was watching automatically refreshed, increasing the number of counted votes by the thousands. Our votes were finally somewhere in those overwhelming numbers, making a difference and giving us a voice.
Election Day 2014 is coming! Now is the time to remind tthe people in your life to visit VOTE411.org to register to vote, make sure that their voter registration record is up-to-date and learn about important voting rules and deadlines in their state. With your help, we’re Making Democracy Work!®