He Votado: The Story of a First-Time Latina Voter

Voting can be a bit intimidating if one does not have the appropriate guidance, especially for first-time voters. My name is Monica B. Villa; I am a current intern at The Urban League of Philadelphia and a first-time voter.

Growing up, my father was always an active voter, but my mother was not. I asked her why she would not vote.

“Why should I? I can’t make a difference,” she responded. At the time, I thought to myself, ‘Well, she is right.’ So, I also did not have any interest in political activism or voting.

It was not until my junior year of high school that my views on voting began to change. My history teacher took the time to explain the importance of voting to our class. The words I’ll never forget were, “Your vote counts; and, together, we can make a difference.”

This was the moment I realized voting influenced my education, health and wellness and socio-economic status. As a Latina, I saw how much my vote impacted the Latino(a)/Hispanic population, especially after doing the research and learning that voter turnout in my community was low, particularly during the 2016 presidential election.

Then, college began; and I did not take the time out of my schedule to learn how to vote. Peers and colleagues stressed how important it was to vote in the primaries but never demonstrated the steps to get started.

At my school, Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., students were stationed at tables asking passing students if they were registered to vote. Some would simply ignore them while others would say yes and walk away. For those who stopped, I watched and noted their hesitation as they filled out their voter applications.

I took an application and filled it out at the table, which made me uncomfortable because I felt like my personal information was being exposed to others around me. But after I registered to vote, I had no idea what to do next. I would hear friends talk about how confused they were about finding their voting location or how to get there because they were first-time voters, too.

I was among those unsure about voting locations because of unfamiliarity with the college town. Another thing that kept me from wanting to vote was that I did not have transportation and felt uncomfortable going by myself. Thankfully, I had a group of friends registered at the same location, and I learned it was within walking distance.

Once I figured out how to vote, where to vote, how to get there, and how to use the voting booth, I realized I may not have been the only one going through such an unclear and tedious experience.

This made me want to help—not just my fellow students, but my family and neighbors who may have experienced the same feelings and uncertainties I experienced. Voting is a privilege. As citizens, we should never take this democratic lever of power for granted. Voting should never be a chore spoiled by confusion or frustration. It’s important because I’ve learned that our vote counts; and, together, we can make a difference. El voto tuyo cuenta y juntos podemos hacer una diferencia.