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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Blog: Why Vote? A Young Person’s Perspective by Hannah Siegel

Photo-01Following is a guest blog by Hannah Siegel. A 2012 Sandia Preparatory School Graduate and Intern for Martin Heinrich’s Campaign for U.S. Senate.

"This coming Saturday I will graduate from Sandia Prep in Albuquerque. For the past year, I have been the news editor of my school paper and I have always held a deep seeded interest in politics. Over the past month, these two passions have come together through my Senior Experience internship with the communications director of the Martin Heinrich for Senate campaign.

As a result of this experience, I was motivated to write an op-ed for other young people, giving my opinion on the importance of voting and explaining why I support Martin Heinrich. I hope you will consider publishing this op-ed in Democracy for New Mexico before next Tuesday’s primary."

Perhaps it was the midterm election cycle, the time of day (just after school), the polling place, or simple serendipity, but the first time I ever cast my vote, I was pretty much alone. There was no line and no need for the voter card I had carried around like a talisman since I first got it a few weeks prior.

Voting was simple and easy. I had done my research so thoroughly that I even knew which judges I wanted to keep. I could have filled in the circle that would allow me to vote straight Democratic, but for some reason I felt the need to bubble in each and every individual oval, and every time I did so, I felt a spark of adrenaline and a feeling of accomplishment and importance.

No longer would I just have to sit behind the phone and urge people to do what I so longed to do. No longer would I have to walk from house to house for hours in 100 degree weather with the bitter, yet hopeful knowledge that volunteering was all I could do. Finally, I had my own say. Finally, I could use my civic voice. At last, I could vote.

There are many reasons I could name that would  explain my voting excitement or why I would encourage other young people to vote: every vote matters, voting now creates good habits later, and voting is the most important civic duty a person has. But those are just facts, and none of them really capture my enthusiasm. You see, I vote for my future. Incidentally, this is also why I cast my primary vote for Martin Heinrich and why I will do so again come November.

Right now, there are several bills floating around congress that would keep the interest rate on federal student loans low. And though, at this current moment it doesn’t look like I’ll need a government loan for college next year and the years beyond, for many of my peers, a government loan is their only option. The only thing the bills really differ on is how they would be paid for. The bill introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives will cut funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is aimed at stopping serious health risks and chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer before they happen, and is included in the Affordable Health Care Act. The bill that Rep. Heinrich supports will raise taxes by six percent on oil companies. Since oil companies are currently raking in more money than any other industry in America, I think they can afford a small tax increase to support the future generation of CEOs.

But there are other issues currently being debated on Capitol Hill that are just as important if not more so to my generation and future generations.

Firstly, being a relatively private person and having also recently joined Facebook, I can say that privacy on the internet, a place where confidentiality can easily be breeched, is a serious matter. But it’s not just hackers that can compromise private information. Recently, there have been rather terrifying reports that employers are demanding to see employees’ and job applicants' passwords so they can access information that may be hidden from the public eye on Facebook and other social media sites. To counteract this new trend, Rep, Heinrich took action and introduced the Password Protection Act, which would make it illegal for employers to demand online, private information.

Secondly, I have lived in New Mexico my entire life, which has given me a clear window into the debate over illegal immigration. We should build a higher fence; employers should be penalized for employing illegal immigrants; all illegal immigrants should be rounded up and deported; illegal immigrants shouldn’t have drivers’ licenses: these are all common opinions voiced about illegal immigration. But one thing that isn’t talked about enough is the children who come to our country at a young age. Though they are not American citizens, many of them have grown up in America. This is their home. They know English just as well as their fellow students and are just as driven to make the American dream their own—many serving our country in the military. Rep. Heinrich is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), which would allow students, who are just like me, only different in their country of birth, to receive full status as a U.S. citizen.

Thirdly, I would like to take this time to talk about bullying. Yes, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson was right when she said recently that it is the job of parents to teach their children empathy and acceptance. However, I disagree that the government has no role in addressing the problem of bullying. This issue is especially close to my heart as someone who has been bullied because of perceived sexual orientation. In recent years, there has been a dramatic upswing in students committing suicide because they were bullied, especially kids who were bullied because of sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, which is why a bill called the Student Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced. The act, which, again, Rep Heinrich co-sponsors, would outlaw bullying and harassment of students in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity both by bullies and by school staff and programs. The bill would not criminalize bullies, but would penalize schools that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lastly, Rep. Heinrich also fought against the House Republican budget which would make serious cuts to Social Security and Medicare. You may point out that neither of those things really affects me because, as a healthy young person, I don’t need them. But the truth is I won’t always be young and more importantly there are parents and grandparents out there who need these programs to insure their well being and the well being of their children and grandchildren. If I work hard and pay into the system, I should be able to receive the benefits I've earned when I retire. That’s only fair. But if the Republican budget passes, the rug may be pulled out from under me and everyone else because Medicare and Social Security will end as we know it.

When I go to the polls to vote, or when I weigh positives and negatives of both sides of an issue, I’m not just cognizant of my own situation, but of others’ as well. A country is a lot like a really big, dysfunctional family: we are united by a common citizenship and have a responsibility to one another. If one person is struggling, it is the duty of the entire family to help that person out, regardless of how that person may have fallen into that situation. The same is true of a country, but on a much larger scale. So when I cast my vote, I do it not just for my own gain and for my future, but also for everyone else’s. If we recognize that we are all in it together, we are stronger. That notion, I believe, is one that Rep. Martin Heinrich shares and that is why I will continue to throw my support behind him through voting and volunteering.

May 29, 2012 at 06:05 PM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Guest Blogger, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Youth | Permalink

Comments

What a great article! I hope that other young people follow your example and participate in politics as well. I look forward to the day when Hannah's name is on the ballot.

Posted by: Robert Lara | May 30, 2012 8:23:25 AM