This year, Americans have seen up close the ways in which the misuse of power can hurt people—the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is perhaps the clearest example of this, but police killings of unarmed Black Americans, discrimination against transgender Americans, and numerous other examples have come to define our era.
So how do average Americans stand up to these wrongs? They vote. And this year, an unprecedented number of Americans are taking a stand. They’re voting early in hours-long lines to ensure their voices are heard. They’re mailing their ballots in droves. They’re encouraging others to do the same.
That’s what real power looks like.
This election season, COURIER is asking people across the country to share why they’re going to the polls this year, and to shed light on what those experiences look like. By elevating these stories, we hope to remind readers of what it’s like to harness one of the few true superpowers we have as Americans: our voices.
Bookmark this page so you can return often for a dose of inspiration and a closer look at how voters are navigating this historic election—from why they’re voting to what casting a ballot looks like in 2020. We could all use an opportunity to celebrate what connects us as Americans.
October 28, 2020 // 3:30 PM EDT
Blanca Gamez has lived in the United States since she was seven months old. As part of a mixed status family, she has relied on her sister, and for the first time this year her father, to vote on her behalf.
Each member of the Gamez family, who live in Nevada, has a different citizenship status: Her younger sister was born in the US, and her father was naturalized recently after many years with a work permit. Gamez and her mother are undocumented, though Gamez is legally allowed to live and work in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She cannot, however, participate in the electoral process.
“I’m in this weird limbo phase because of DACA,” Gamez, 30, told COURIER. “So for the past few years, my sister has been the only voter in the family—2010 was actually her first election.”
For years, the future of DACA has been unclear. , Since taking office, President Donald Trump has worked to restrict and ultimately end the program that allows people who arrived in the United States as children to avoid the looming threat of deportation.
As an organizer with the ACLU, part of Gamez’s work involves getting people out to the polls to ensure their voices are heard. “If I were eligible to vote, I would be out there all dressed up,” she said.
Until the federal government creates a pathway for citizenship to give Gamez that opportunity, she relies on her family to vote on her behalf. Every time her sister Sandra goes to the polls, she brings her back a sticker.
It’s Gamez’s one request. “I like collecting them.”
Voting isn’t just about the individual casting the ballot, she explained. Rather, it’s about what you can do to better the community at large.
“Your impact does have greater [sway] and does create greater change. It trickles down to folks, even those who are not eligible to vote. Your vote can determine whether or not policies change, whether or not I stay in this country, the only country I’ve called home all these years, your vote can make that difference.”
Last week, Gamez’s father voted for the first time ever. Their family accompanied him to the voting location, and greeted him with cheers when he exited the building.
He was proudly holding an “I Voted” sticker.
— Elle Meyers
October 26, 2020 // 2:05 PM EDT
WATCH: COURIER Newsroom Editor Meghan McCarthy Votes Early in Alexandria, Va.
October 19, 2020 // 2:10 PM EDT
Billy Ball: He Brought His 6-Year-Old With Him to Vote Early in North Carolina
Billy Ball is the managing editor of Cardinal & Pine, COURIER’s North Carolina-focused news site. When polls opened last week for early voting, he and his partner made a point to cast their ballots in person with their six-year-old daughter in tow.
As Ball filled out his bubble ballot—his daughter bopping excitedly back and forth between his and his partner’s booths—he thought about how state election officials had been thoughtful about safety precautions. “The booths were spaced sufficiently,” he wrote. “A poll worker greeted us at the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and we could grab a pen out of a waiting shoebox. We got to keep the pen because of the coronavirus.”
On the way out, his daughter got a sticker. “I voted, no bull,” it read, a nod to Durham’s horned mascot. She wore it proudly.
OCTOBER 15, 2020 // 2:09 PM EDT
Connie Chang: Her Children’s Future Weighs Heavily on Her
Growing up, Connie Chang’s immigrant family never talked about politics at the dinner table. Instead, her parents were more concerned about the virtues of working hard in order to achieve the so-called “American dream.”
Now that she’s got her own family, Chang and her husband—a European citizen from Italy—are concerned about their children’s future. Not only do they have active-shooter drills at their school, but the family lives in California, where fire is just another season.
Knowing that her husband is ineligible to vote, Chang sees it as her duty to cast her ballot this November for her family.
OCTOBER 7, 2020 // 1:22 PM EDT
Keisha Shields: She’s Honoring Her Father, Who Died From Cancer Last Year
In 2019, Keisha Shields’ father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Georgia man subsequently died from his battle, but not before sharing his concerns with his daughter about the state of the country.
What was most concerning for him, Shields recalled, is the devastation the Trump administration has caused people like him by attacking access to health care. Shields promised to honor his memory by casting her vote this November for her father.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2020 // 8:00 AM EDT
Carolina Caltzoncint-Herrera: Her Undocumented Parents Can’t Vote, So She Will
Carolina Caltzoncint-Herrera is a community college student in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the whistleblower report about the horrifying conditions at a Georgia ICE detention center came out in September, the first-generation American was reminded of how easily a person’s freedom can be taken away—especially under the current administration. She thought about her parents, who came to the United States from Mexico when her mother was pregnant with her.
This month, Caltzoncint-Herrera sent her ballot in via mail. Her goal is to elect officials who believe, like her, that the rights of people from all backgrounds matter.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 // 3:54 PM EDT
Espy Thomas: Going to the Polls With Pride For Her Ancestors
Espy Thomas is a native Detroiter. She plans to vote—as she does every election—for her ancestors. That includes her grandfather, a former steel mill worker. “I’m very strongly connected to my ancestors; every last one of them. I vote for all of them,” she said. Her vote, she added, is an acknowledgement of the sacrifices those before her have made.