What Does Voting Mean to You?


Photo 2 Willie Velasquez by a voting booth- Photo from southwest voter and education project collection

WILLIE VELÁSQUEZ: YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE, a VOCES/PBS Election 2016 special,  premieres on PBS, Monday, October 3rd.

When it comes to the 2016 elections, we are at last in the home stretch, and all I can say is:


Which is as good time as any to think about voting.

What does being able to vote mean to you? For me, it’s a reminder of how fortunate we are.  As American citizens, we get to vote, a right that is not available to all people. So give yourself a pat on the back. For, in the words of Willie Velásquez,

“Your vote is your voice.”

For those of you who don’t know who Willie is, he is the subject of a new PBS documentary airing Monday, October 3rd.

More importantly, Willie was a great leader and activist in the Latino community. A Mexican American, he fought for the right to vote in Texas, at a time when the only way to vote was to pay a poll tax. Frankly, most Mexican Americans couldn’t afford to pay it. It also was a time when Texas Rangers, through sheer force and the strength of their numbers, made sure Latinos voted the way they were told to vote by their bosses.

Or else.

Voter suppression you say? You don’t know the half of it.  Which is why Willie founded the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.  It is still around today and making a difference.

Of course, Latinos weren’t the only ones being held back when it comes to voting. Let’s not forget how hard the suffragettes had to struggle to win the women’s vote, and what African Americans had to endure.

And here we are today, with the right to vote a done deal. Yet many of us have no plans whatsoever to vote in this election cycle. Sure, if you ask me, the 2016 presidential election is a bit wild, but that’s no reason not to vote.

I mean, if you don’t vote someone else is going to decide for you and take the power out of your hands. Can you think of anything crazier than that??

Well, whether you’re planning on voting or not (and I sincerely hope you will), I have a proposition for you.

In honor of Willie Velasquez and others like him, who have fought so hard to earn us the right to vote, please answer this question:

What does voting really mean to you?

What does it means to you personally to have that power and privilege? Do you care? Think about it and let me know.

Leave a comment here or better yet, write your own blog post about what voting means to you, and I’ll add a link to your page. I’ll also tweet it. Heck, I’ll share it with Latino Public Broadcasting, which co-produced the Willie Velásquez documentary and I bet they’ll tweet it, too. (@LPBMedia)

As for me, since turning 18, I have never missed an opportunity to cast my vote. And I’m not about to start now. Yep, I’m a voter for life!

For more information on WILLIE VELÁSQUEZ: YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE, check out my interview with the film’s producer, Hector Galán.  It’s on the Huffington Post site!

WILLIE VELÁSQUEZ: YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE, a VOCES/PBS Election 2016 special, is directed by Hector Galán. It is a co-production of Galán Incorporated and Latino Public Broadcasting with major funding from the Corporation from Public Broadcasting. Presented by KLRU Austin and KLRN San Antonio. Premieres on PBS, Monday, October 3rd.


19 thoughts on “What Does Voting Mean to You?

  1. I’ve heard several people recently say they were not going to vote in the Presidential Election.
    I scold them, “People have died for you! People have paved the way for you! Get out there and utilize your VOICE)))!!”
    It is a privilege and an honor.
    For people who do not vote, they have NO VOICE to bitch.

  2. I am a voter, but I must admit that this time around I am really struggling. Neither candidate makes me feel positive about casting a vote. I’m quite torn up about it…

    • But here’s the thing, Britton. Though I feel your pain, I have to add that you must vote. You must pick the lesser of two evils. Don’t bother with the independents. They don’t stand a chance. A vote for either of them will mean the one you like the least, wins! And we all know that that means we will all face four years of stark raving madness. So you have no choice but to vote! Trust me, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way abut the choices.
      Actually, I have one more piece of advice: Watch on PBS, “Frontline: The Choice.” This is the most terrific piece of journalism. Frontline objectively assesses both candidates which will be a great help to you in deciding. I watch it every election and it’s a fascinating piece of journalism. It airs September 27 on your local station. After that, you can find it online.

  3. I love the idea of holding onto the power of saying my vote counted. This election alone has proved that we must exercise our right to vote, if we want the best candidate out there to be our president. If we want the one that works well as a diplomat and will remain neutral when the world calls for mediation, or the one that will not build walls but ask how to bridge a gap and unite, or mend our almost irretrievably broken down education system to heighten who we are as a nation of thinkers, inventors and creators, if we want all of that, and we have an inkling of who is best at that job, we need to get out there and do our bit.

    I am from Australia, and there it is mandatory to vote, in fact you pay a fine if you don’t. I used to vote while living here for a long time, I was so proud to walk into the embassy and cast my vote until I had to provide proof that I couldn’t anymore because of distance etc.

    • Imagine fining people here for not voting, MM. First of all, people would balk at the very idea. Republicans would be against it because the last thing they’d want is for more Democrats to vote. On the other hand if paying a fine became law, we might finally be able to obliterate that national debt, with all the money that would be made from the non-voters. Of course, the easiest solution would be for everyone to just vote!

      • I found it so interesting that no one had to pay a fine here when I first moved. I liked voting so it never bothered me. Then I saw how many people couldn’t be bothered to vote, especially our youth and thought to ask the question what would everyone do if there was a fine…
        I enjoy the idea of the Republicans balking at a heavy Dems turn out. It is pretty funny because this whole campaign has been about praising Putin and Trump University vs. the Clinton Foundation or the Wall vs. the email scandal. No one seems to talk much about our national debt or education.
        If everyone voted, wouldn’t that be a result worth seeing?

  4. Voting is akin to selecting a lawyer. You want one to represent your best interests. If I don’t choose one, some random person will speak on my behalf and I don’t know diddly about him/her. They would be those folk who represent folk who pay them directly versus me. Now, they may do a fine job, on the other hand but I wanna have a say myself. Otherwise, I may be in for a swift ride right off a cliff!

    Being that African American folk and others died, I’d be taking what they did for granted. If it meant losing a life over it back then, it certainly should be my job to cast my ballot today.

    • Well said, Totsy. If more people followed your example, we’d have a nation of voters. We owe it to those who gave of themselves, who made great sacrifices so that we could have the right to vote. We owe them that much.

  5. I, too, am a voter! All through my years as a journalist — when I was paid to be impartial, you know — I still exercised my right to vote. As the daughter of a veteran, I consider it the least I can do to honor the memory of those who served that we might be free.

    Obviously, this is turning into the ugliest of elections; however, that doesn’t mean we can protest by refusing to go to the polls. After all, the one who doesn’t cast a ballot has NO right to complain about the outcome! (And we all know we’re gonna complain, right?!?)

    I can’t fathom living anywhere that doesn’t grant its citizens the privilege of choosing their representatives. And I’m not talking about those places where you have one choice and you have to accept that! I’m glad you’ve written about this, Monica — it’s very timely!

    • I agree, Debbie. I worry about all those folks who think they’re helping matters, or their conscience, by not voting at all. It’s rather frustrating. I think probably a lot of them don’t vote at all and are using their unhappiness with the candidates as an excuse this time around. Sigh.

  6. It’s not just the presidential election either. Those local representatives can make a big difference. And the Senate and House as well, as we’ve seen this past 8 years.

  7. Voting is very important and I vote in all local and national elections here in the UK..

    However, I wonder how many vote and choose the least worst candidate rather than the best?

    Perhaps there should be a box on the ballot paper that has next to it :- NONE OF THE ABOVE.

    I wonder how many would tick that?

    • Seems like a None of the Above would be similar to not casting a vote. Look, there is no perfect candidate. They all come with flaws and as you implied, we have to select the one with less of them. It’s a shabby way to look at it but sometimes, those are the options we’re stuck with.

    • In 2004 I wasn’t crazy about John Kerry but I voted for him anyway because I couldn’t imagine anything worse that a second term for George W. In fact, more often than not, I’m not crazy about the candidates running. He was one of the few who in ages, I got excited about. 😉

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