By Robert Cervantes
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Until recently I did not care much about voting.
I was never fond of politics or the government, because I was under the impression that my vote didn’t matter. My grandfather used to tell me conspiracy theories about how every election was rigged. I refused to be part of a corrupt system.
But then I met someone who changed my thinking.
In May, We’Ced and Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Merced hosted #GetLoud Youth, a mock election event aimed at teaching local youth about civic engagement. There were about 65 young people who attended. The atmosphere was energetic.
We were informed about how voting works, and also got to learn about candidates running for City Council and County Supervisor seats here in Merced. People in the crowd expressed why this year’s election matters to them and how they plan to make a difference. There was even a voter registration table, because a lot of youth don’t know they can register to vote at the age of 16.
At the event, I was inspired by the words of my lovely mentor, boss and role model, Claudia Gonzalez. I listened as she recounted her personal story and became emotional. She lost her right to vote because of mistakes she made in the past. This year she will be eligible to vote for the first time in her life. Having been on community supervision for many years, she finally discharged.
Claudia said we should not take our right to vote for granted, and that we needed to vote for people like her and thousands of others who want to vote, but have been stripped of this right. Many in the undocumented community, for example, can’t voice their opinion on matters that will directly impact their lives here. They are relying on us.
I thought of all the voiceless people who were counting on me to exercise my right. Then and there, I decided to register to vote.
At the age of twenty-one, I will vote for the first time in my life in November.
I now understand that together we can make a difference, because contrary to what you hear, every vote does matter in this upcoming election.
I found the motivation I needed to be civically engaged. Just look around you and you will too.
It’s time to vote. Wake up and get loud.
A veteran youth reporter, Robert Cervantes, 21, has been a member of We’Ced for many years. He loves to write about issues affecting young people and music. Currently serving as a council member of Merced’s Youth Council, his dream is to help bring a music venue to Merced.