One of my earliest memories surrounding voting was in 2008 when my parents took me to the polls to watch them vote for Barack Obama. I remember my dad letting me stand next to him within the privacy divider as he showed me how he had to fill in the bubbles, and then go feed the ballot into the machine. I remember thinking it was so cool that he had just voted for the man that we waited hours in the rain to watch speak on the quad of the local university just a month previously. The lady working the voting machine handed me a “future voter” sticker as I walked out the door, and I was hooked on voting. To be fair, 9 year old me was probably more excited by the sticker than democracy, but I always looked forward to going to the polls after that.
As I grew up, I slowly grew more and more invested in political systems. In high school, classes like “U.S. Government” inspired me to write to my Congressional representatives and participate in marches and protests in Washington, D.C. for issues that I felt need to be addressed; however, it wasn’t until college that I became deeply involved in voter registration and education efforts. I started college in 2018, the year of the midterm elections, and there was a huge push for larger voter turnout amongst younger people. One of my first-semester professors was very involved in voter registration efforts, and I remember her using class time to help us all get registered to vote and request our absentee ballots. To my surprise, most of my classmates were not registered and did not know what an absentee ballot was. It was not their fault, our education system had failed them.
After that class period, my professor came up to me and one of my fellow students and said “we need to do something about this”, and so I became the co-founder and President of my school’s first non-partisan voter registration and education organization. I’ve learned so much about democratic processes, voter laws, and voter suppression tactics that disproportionately target people of color while building this organization up over the past 3 years. I’ve enjoyed getting to help hundreds of my fellow students to register to vote and request absentee ballots during the 2020 election cycle, and also had the wonderful experience of being a poll worker in my hometown for the 2020 primary and general elections. I’m very much looking forward to continuing to educate myself on election processes as well as continuing to work on voter education efforts with the Salsa the Vote team over the next several months.
by Andrew Kolar