“The Right to Vote Is a Tremendous Gift”

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To mark National Voter Registration Day, we invited our YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish colleague Salma Siddick to share what voting means to her. Many thanks to Salma for sharing her story, and to Firesteel’s new volunteer, Peggy, for writing this post.

This topic is close to Peggy’s heart because, an immigrant from Taiwan, she is a permanent resident of the U.S. but not yet a citizen. She doesn’t have the right to vote, but her day job is helping Seattle residents engage in the civic process.

Talking with both of these amazing women reminded me that citizens’ votes affect not just ourselves, but also the many U.S. residents who do not have the right to vote. I urge all of us who have this right to step up to our responsibility — to register, to educate ourselves about local and national candidates and issues, and to vote.  –Denise

Written by Peggy Liao, Firesteel Advocacy Volunteer

“It is your right,” a three-year-old boy said to his uncle. 

The boy was Salma’s nephew, and it was the night Salma and her siblings and parents were sitting around a dining table discussing each candidate on a ballot for a local election. Salma’s brother was disagreeing with his relatives about the merits of one candidate, and the toddler, who’d been observing the family activity, chimed in with what he’d picked up about rights in a democracy.

“That brought tears to my eyes, because we’d been discussing voting at the table, saying lots of things, and he picked out, ‘it’s your right,'” Salma said. “It was so moving that this three-year-old, who would never have to worry about voting rights, understood it.”

Salma described this evening with her face lit up and a satisfied smile. It was the first time that she was eligible to vote in the United States. She was 33 years old.

Immigrating from Zimbabwe to the U.S. at age 17, Salma got her citizenship 16 years later. On the day of her oath, the day of a welcoming naturalization ceremony, the day she cried tears of joy, Salma registered to vote. The moment is still touching. She got emotional when she shared her story with us.

Salma felt the absence of the right to vote acutely when she was in college in Chicago. She wanted to support a community member who was running for the city council, but was informed that she could not vote. Despite this, she tirelessly encouraged everyone around her to vote, to practice the fundamental right of being an American citizen, the right that many people don’t have. Salma believes it is a right that people should not take for granted.

Salma does not take the right for granted. She knows many brave advocates defended and fought for the right to vote, especially for women and people of color.

Salma noted social change happens from the ground up, as people participate in local elections, which are just as important as the presidential election.

Voting is the power that holds leaders accountable. Voting is a direct and simple way to share your opinion with the government. Through this channel, our voice gets heard. If you want to be heard, if you want to change your community, please register to vote today, and exercise your right in the next election on Nov. 8!

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