Don't tell me my vote doesn't count

Julissa Arce
Source: Vincent Remini
Julissa Arce

The voting process in our country is far from perfect, in fact it is one of the most archaic processes we use. The primary voting ballot, at least in California, resembles a lottery ticket with bubbles and numbers instead of candidate names. It is a process that is not uniform across states, subject to human error and even fraud.

Despite the many flaws in the system, I was more than eager to cast my first vote by participating in the California primary on June 7th, and to finally take part in our democratic process. Since I became of age to vote, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were elected president and I had no voice in the matter. At the time, I couldn't vote because I was undocumented, though in all ways I was an engaged citizen, yet I was not able to voice who I wanted to represent me, my community or my future.

This election season is of monumental importance and everyone can agree that this election cycle is far from "normal." As a first-time voter, entering this chaotic and messy process can feel confusing, and I questioned whether my vote really does count. For the last several months I heard from a multitude of surveys, polls, and reports concluding the nominees for Democratic and Republican Parties. Yet, I hadn't casted my vote. The night before the California primary, the media declared Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party's nominee. Yet again, I hadn't cast my vote.

Following the delegation tally between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has been a total disarray. The delegates and super-delegates process within the Democratic Party is a mathematical strategy all to itself. In California alone, 475 delegates were up for grab. Many made speculations and several came to their own conclusion based on arithmetic and informal surveys. But again, the results are not final, until they are final. The super delegates, after all, do not actually vote until the convention. Yet, every message I received from the media and punditry out there was that it was all done, before I even stepped into my polling station. I am sure that I wasn't the only first time voter yesterday and, perhaps, not the only first time voter that felt frustrated by all of the electoral chaos.

"I waited far too long to let anyone tell me that my vote doesn’t count. My vote matters, not just to me, but to the millions of people who cannot vote but whose lives remain on the line."

I still feel the excitement of having voted, of having done my duty as a citizen of this country, but I cannot look at the experience through rose-colored lenses. I became a citizen of the United States on August 8, 2014, I waited 33 years to be able to vote and I will not let anyone tell me that my vote doesn't count. Amid a data-driven environment, paired with the media frenzy, on top of a very real divisive political moment in our country, I can't shake the feeling that I was told that my vote doesn't matter.

As the primary results trickled in, after many first-time voters like myself had the opportunity to cast their vote, Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination. The race was not as close as was predicted. The process is imperfect, our electoral system can be improved, but most importantly, we need to hold the media accountable and stress higher standards for reporting. Inaccurate reporting can deter people from showing up to vote. It tells them their vote does not matter.

I waited far too long to let anyone tell me that my vote doesn't count. My vote matters, not just to me, but to the millions of people who cannot vote but whose lives remain on the line. As a country, we are at a crossroads and my vote, as those of millions of newly registered voters and citizens, has an impact on the direction our nation moves. While ours is an imperfect system, it is the envy of the world. Each vote counts and each vote should be respected. As we move toward the general election, the media should keep this in mind and do better.

This November will be my first presidential election voting. I can only try to share my excitement and enthusiasm, but I am sure that I will not be alone on Election Day. I will be joined by millions of first time voters whose vote matters.

Commentary by Julissa Arce, the author of the forthcoming book, "My (Underground) American Dream" (Sept. 13, 2016). Arce made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status working her way up to vice president at Goldman Sachs by age 27 while being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Follow her on Twitter @julissaarce.

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