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A Citizen’s First Vote

Surviving the Georgia voter purge, a first generation American casts her first vote -- with a little help from her friends

The 2018 midterm election was my first as a United States citizen, and I was looking forward to being able to voice my opinion as a member of my community. Since I was 14, I always knew I had to be an active member of society for many reasons: I am a young, Vietnamese bisexual born from a family of immigrants. The world of politics is not friendly to minorities, especially ones who do not speak up. I understood that the fight for equal rights as a member of the LGBT+ community has been ongoing and continuing, and the struggles of systematic racism and prejudice are wrongs I hope my generation can stop, if not prevent. If I could vote, I would be at least one voice for the many individuals in the United States who deserve the right to be themselves.

Luckily for me, many of my peers agreed. With each passing tragedy and movement, from the #BlackLivesMatter movement to Never Again MSD, many young Americans have realized that our political system must change. If our generation did not care, we were not sure if any other would. With adversity came motivation to become active voters: turning 18 was not only a milestone for adulthood but also a passageway to voting.

I had registered extremely early in 2018 to guarantee my ability to vote. In October, however, I faced a dilemma. I had moved to Decatur to attend Agnes Scott College, and I had changed my polling location to Dekalb County instead of Gwinnett County, where I lived. Upon changing it, my registration disappeared from the online My Voters Page (MVP). I was confused and scared.

Then I realized I was a victim of the notorious Georgia Voter Purge.

While I was watching the news, I had heard about the voter purge. Across Georgia, many voters lost their ability to vote due to inconsistencies of names, addresses, signatures, voting history, and other reasons. Coincidentally, it happened primarily to minorities. Though it concerned me that this was happening, I never would have Imagined that it would happen to me. I checked MVP and what had previously been set in stone was gone. Upon seeing this, I alerted my friends and found that a few others, also minorities, had lost their voting rights. For the weeks before the election, I was anxious and disappointed that my registration was lost, yet I was not surprised. When I had told my professor, Dr. Robin Morris, about this, she informed me of a way I could still vote: a provisional ballot. With an ID, I could still vote and voice my opinion. I was prepared to cast a provisional vote; yet when I went to visit my family, I found my precinct card for my new location. Oddly enough, it had been shipped to my home address instead of my school address.

Nonetheless, I went to my polling place on the day of the election. My college was adamant that each student could travel to their polling p[lace, and offered to pay for the cost of a Lyft, which already was half-off to encourage voters to o to the polls. I took a Lyft to the location and on the way, my kind Lyft driver and I discussed the political atmosphere. She was a canvasser for Stacey Abrams, and she was excited and proud of my generation of voters. We spoke about the importance of voting and how we could better improve our political environment. I talked about how personal interest was typically the first step to encouraging voters. I had convinced my mother to vote because of the the 4th amendment on the ballot, also known as Marsy’s Law. This law would expand of the rights of the victims and their families of domestic abuse. As our conversation came to its end, she excitedly dropped me off at my location, a Parish. Oddly enough, it was empty and quiet besides two or three voters in there. There were no lines, so I quickly filled out my information and ran to the voter machine.

I am proud to say that I voted.

Lee Trinh is a student at Agnes Scott College in Decatur Georgia.

Lee Trinh

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