Nina Michelle Sims
Poll Location: Cleveland Heights, Ohio
I voted for the very first time Tuesday, November 6, 2018, in the midterm elections. I turned 18 the year before but became aware of and interested in the midterms when I applied for my temporary driver’s permit in May of the same year. The clerk asked if I was currently registered to vote. I told her I wasn’t, and she gave me a voter registration application.
In class, we talked about Issue 1 (a proposal that would reduce some drug crime sentences and emphasize treatment and rehabilitation) and the governor’s race. I was really interested in Issue 1. I felt that if it passed, it could potentially help a lot of people who had received extremely long and unfair sentences for small drug crimes. In my opinion, African Americans receive the harshest jail terms, which separates them from their families and leaves them unable to find employment afterwards.
I found the process of voting to be quite easy. In the past, my parents received absentee ballots so we could discuss issues and candidates, and I would have an idea of how a ballot was laid out. My mother joined me when I voted for the first time. We already knew our neighborhood polling station and received literature about the candidates and issues. I already knew the types of identification I needed to vote, so I was excited and ready to go.
Once there, the poll workers were very friendly and informative. They seemed to be excited that this was my first time voting and made me feel comfortable. I was very proud to receive my “I Voted” sticker after I cast my ballot. While I felt well informed on certain issues, I lacked knowledge on others. I was well prepared on the issues that received the most media attention but was very confused when it came to choosing judges and other officials.
I felt a deep sense of pride as I left the polling station. I felt as if my voice had been heard and my vote mattered. In the end, Issue 1 did not pass and my candidate for governor lost. I was disappointed, but I will vote again because it is my right and responsibility.
As a young, African-American woman, I believe it is important to vote. Many people fought, sacrificed and died for the right; and many other people in our country do not have the same privilege. But no matter your background, education or status, you should take advantage of this right.
If you feel like voting doesn’t matter or can’t change anything, I want you to know that it does matter, and things can change. I know it feels like the powers that be don’t care about us; but if we work together towards a common goal, we can make change happen. If you are discouraged from voting, please know that your vote is important because without it a candidate or policy that could hurt your community or our country has a better chance of winning. Win or lose, you must exercise your right.