Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 3

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 3

This is the final installment of a series by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person. Check our part 1 and 2 here and here respectively.

Election Day is here!

Voting is an individual act of pure power; that’s one of the things I’m learning as a first time voter. It’s like we’re a group of millions of ants, all collectively working together, pulling a giant leaf of citizenship to make it to the top of a political anthill. That anthill is not a candidate being voted into office or a law being passed; the top of that anthill is our collective voter registry, our unified willingness to show up for our country and make the best of this democracy. I feel a greater responsibility now to hold my fellow citizens accountable to step up and utilize their personal power. After completing my last phone call tonight, I feel a deep sense of empowerment that I’d participated in the process. In a small way, I was able to contribute to tangible democracy and make a difference.

So what did I learn in this journey of first-time voting in the past few weeks that I will apply the next time around when I’m going a second-time voter?

Show Up.
Mark my calendar and make time and space to show up and be at the town halls, candidate meet-and-greets, and local debates. I was quite puzzled by the amount of judges and some of the positions that were elected into office on my ballot: insurance commissioner anyone? I want to show up and personally get to know these people who are vying for my vote.

Ask Questions.

There are so many things I still have questions on after filling out my ballot! I would make more time to get all my questions, concerns, and critiques addressed. Though I did do my due diligence and read through the materials and made my decision based on multiple sources, asking and having more of my questions answered  would’ve made me feel a little bit more confident about my decisions.
Participate.
I participated this time by phone banking. Next time, I would try some door-to-door canvasing, go to more group events, and find more opportunities to participate and advocate for issues and candidates I believe in.

Decide & Conquer.
My ballot is filled, and I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture in my second post, it was a very hard series of decisions. Making an informed choice, then sticking with it, was no easy feat. Maybe that’s why they make us do it in black ink pen. There are no second chances or guesses when it comes to voting—you get one vote to pen in what you believe and hope that it sticks and makes a dent in our democracy. I hope that next time around, I feel much more of a sense of conquering and completion when I’m done with my ballot.

Party!
The Facebook feed and my Gmail are infiltrated with invites to election parties.  Where have I been all these years? I’ve never attended an election party before, and by the sounds of it, there’s going to be big celebration in Seattle tomorrow. Parties are being hosted at the homes of politicians, in hotel lobbies, at banquet halls, restaurants, ballrooms, and music venues! What a great summation to the democratic process…working really hard to rally for what we believe in, then collectively celebrating when the ballots are in. That’s potentially the greatest thing about being a voter: we’re individually free and have the right to contribute to a collective, fair, and equal process in this country—and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

This whole voting journey takes alot more time than I’d thought from my first post. In answering the question I’d posed for myself, am I a good citizen? I feel like I’m one step closer by submitting my first ballot and doing everything in my power to be as informed as I possibly can in making each decision. I feel more obligated to encourage others to research, understand the impact and power of their vote, and to show up and submit their ballot. The true answer is that a good citizen is someone who strives to continually be a better citizen.  There’s always more we can do to fulfill our civic duties.

See you next time, fellow ballot conquerers!

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 2

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 2

This is installment #2 of a new series by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person. Check our part 1 here.

Read & Research

This next step is perhaps the most crucial in the journey of voting and good citizenship: reading and researching about the issues and the candidates.

Since you heard from me last, I survived Hurricane Sandy and the many trains, planes, and automobiles as a part of a LA-NYC-Boston-Detroit-Seattle extravaganza. I’m also in between deadlines for community and professional commitments, and of course, am completely behind on finding that perfect poem to read during the ceremony at my friend’s destination-wedding next week. I get it, we’re busy.

Young people are caught between our balancing ambition, reality, budgetary and time constraints, being there for our family and friends, answering a deep desire to make a difference in shaping our local and global communities, and seeking strategic ways to get into that not-so-secret Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show. How do we fit voting into this equation?

It’s less than a week until Election Day (Nov. 6), and a second Voters’ Pamphlet greeted me when I opened my neglected mailbox after my week away. They call this one, the King County Local Voters’ Pamphlet, apparently it’s different than the State of Washington Voters’ Pamphlet I’d received the week prior. Most of my more experienced-voter friends have already posted humble-brag Facebook photos of their completed ballot, with snapshots of their choice political candidates and ballot measures. With my trip, and the limited time on my hands with all the things I’m balancing, I’m a bit behind. I also don’t want others’ biases to affect my own voting opinion. Voting is a new freedom of mine, as I’d mentioned extensively in my first post, I don’t want to mess it up by being easily influenced. So where do I find unbiased information?

It’s a much more nuanced and difficult question than I’d imagined. In order to choose my candidates and be informed about these ballot measures, I have very finite options to get objective information, most people merely scoffed and laughed at me when I’d asked for unbiased voters’ resources:

  • Voter’s Pamphlet. The pros: It’s sent to my door, both State and County versions are available online, and has everything covered. The cons: It’s lengthy, and allows candidates, initiatives, and ballot measures to describe things in their own words, how can that possibly be objective?
  • The Municipal League. The pros: objective grading system of everything from candidates to ballot measures, all available online. Full disclaimer: I have multiple friends on their board, and have volunteered with the candidate evaluation process in the past before I became a citizen, so have some vague familiarity and recollection. Cons: It’s yet another set of information I have to sludge through.
  • Blogs and the Media. The pros: Up-to-date coverage with multiple perspectives on multiple platforms that I can read and catch up on my many devices. The cons: As a journalism graduate, I’ve been ingrained with a lot of idealism about objectivity, but we all know that most media outlets have political agendas, and even the most objective ones tend to lean a little to the left or right. Many people pointed me to The Stranger’s Cheat Sheet as a Seattleite and because of my age, though it’s definitely not objective (and, to it’s credit, very openly so). Others mentioned The Atlantic, and Publicola which, while certainly not without biases, strive for a more objective and centrist voice.
  • Other resources: family, friends, mentors, community members, my Facebook and Twitter feed. Pros: I trust, and have real rapport and relationships with them. Cons: They’re human and come with their own set of biases and beliefs, which may nullify the quest of getting objective informants.

So what do I do and whom do I trust for my research and information? My approach is going to be a combination of the aforementioned, browsing through the voters’ pamphlets, checking out what the Muni League has to say, paying attention to what’s trending on major local and national media outlets and blogs, and of course, keeping a close ear on the ground and eye on my feed of what my friends and family are saying.

Next post…Show Up & Question.

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