Voting in November? Start vetting your candidates now
Citizenship comes with many rights, one of the most important being the ability to vote in elections.
Growing up in an immigrant household, my parents didn’t know how to connect with the government. Elections were taken with a sense of humor, my mom voting Republican, and my dad voting Democrat. Neither of them was aware of the backgrounds of the candidates they were rooting for, nor were they willing to do any research. They were — and still are — completely unaware that votes matter and the outcome continuously affects their lives.
They are not alone.
Immigrants come to our country and our city with a dream to become American citizens. But the unfortunate truth is, without a way to relate to government or a way to fully understand the impact of votes, many naturalized immigrants vote for the “better seeming” candidate, regardless of the actual truth behind the pitch.
Voting should not be based on appearance during election season. It’s not about who quotes God the most, the promise of lower taxes or a living wage. It’s about knowing your right as a U.S. citizen and a resident of New York City. That your voice, concerns and vote really matter.
There are people running for mayor of New York City. We vote this November. I’m not the most politically charged person and don’t have full knowledge of each candidate’s track record, but I’m making the decisions on what matters to me.
In order to get my vote, the candidate must focus on the following, along with a whole list of other things:
• Immigrants – NYC is the city of immigrants. Everyone from everywhere is here, contributing to every facet of life. I need a mayor who is completely conscious of that fact, being mindful of openness, accessibility and will bring diversity to the senior levels of City Hall.
• Housing – My husband is planning on buying a house. I’m coping with the issue of “How are we ever going to afford it?” Young couples face a daunting reality of being able to afford a place to live in NYC. I feel like I’m priced out of my own city but I refuse to move to another state.
• Cost of Living – My middle-class parents were driven out of the city because they could no longer afford to pay for the house in Queens. My older brother moved from Queens to New Jersey for a bigger house and better schools for his kids. I grew up in Queens and genuinely want to keep my roots here. The next mayor needs to bring the middle class back.
• Small Business – As an owner of an up-and-coming cake studio, I really care about programs that can help small businesses navigate rules and continue to grow. Initiatives designed specifically for small businesses will help create local jobs and boost neighborhood economy.
• Accountability – For my vote, the candidate needs a track record of ideas and accomplishment. Pitch initiatives and follow through. If a project falls short, I respect the ability to account for the situation and provide proper reasoning and remediation.
All citizens, including the recently naturalized, need to realize the importance of their vote. Decisions should not be made in the two weeks before Election Day. Consider what is important to you. Know your terms, research the candidates and cast a thoughtful vote for your representative in November.
Maria Cruz Lee is a project coordinator and a special assistant to the Commissioner on the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. This essay, she makes clear, is her personal opinion.
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