Four years ago, one of the most publicized and covered elections took place in America. I was entering into high school, and according to my teachers and family, they had never seen such a high interest in politics by high school students and young adults. My mother was among those excited to see young people getting involved.
When my mother came to America from Guyana, just a few years shy of adulthood, she had invested a lot in the voyage and had a lot of aspirations. Being a part of this nation was one of them. Upon arrival, she quickly realized how important the topics of our nation were, and still are, in terms of voting. Guyana, a land of many beautiful features, has a past of imperialism and has struggled to find stability in government. The opportunity to vote in America, among many of our country’s merits, was a unique feature compared to her homeland. Growing up, many lessons and scruples were instilled in my siblings and I amidst the laughter and joy of our home. Knowledge of culture and politics, both domestic and worldwide, were important. So you can only imagine how exciting it was for me, the last of my family, to cast my first vote on November 6, 2012.
A year prior to my college experience here at the Mount, I registered to vote due to encouragement from my high school, my household, and my own desires. Seniors at my high school were offered the opportunity to register in our home county, so I did. However, when I landed here at the Mount, my chances of voting for the first time seemed slim, due to my county of registration. I had three options: register to vote in Orange County, vote absentee, or go home to vote. I chose the first choice back in September 2012. Thankfully, it was only days before Hurricane Sandy arrived when I found my voter registration card in my campus mailbox.
In all honesty, the registration part was not arduous; in fact, it was very easy. It was finding the location that panicked me. As a freshman student, I had not yet become familiar with the town of Newburgh. Luckily, a friendly security guard offered to drop me off at my polling station. I grabbed my favorite lipstick, my registration card, and a pocket full of hope that everything would go smoothly.
The inside of the polling place held red and blue polling booths, behind which a group of volunteers checked registration information and gave out large, rectangular voting cards. When I entered, I instantly knew that I was the most vibrant personality so far. I couldn’t hide my excitement or my smile. The volunteers could all tell that it was my first time voting and applauded me.
Fortunately, I had already made the most important decision. After working intimately with the Mount’s Political Awareness Club, viewing their successful efforts to register students, attending political parties for the October debates, and doing my own political research, I knew who my candidate of choice was. To cast a vote without any knowledge of each presidential candidate’s agenda, or their legislative backgrounds, would be a waste.
After bubbling in my votes, the last step was to submit my large voting card through a machine, but before doing so, I knew that I had to capture this moment. I asked a lovely woman to take my picture, which she accepted. My only surprise about voting was how simple it was. Years ago, as told by family and friends, voters used machines with levers to “punch” in their votes. Thankfully, times have changed.
As I reflect on my voting experience, I consider my mother and ancestors, who sacrificed bountifully for the privilege to vote for themselves, and for generations such as mine. I also reflect upon the brave individuals of this nation who were prohibited by laws and lynched for such a simple and powerful right. I did more than just vote for the first time on November 6th; I honored my familial history and rights.
Asma Neblett, class of 2016, is a communications major with a concentration in journalism from Port Jefferson, New York.