Immigration, abortion, the pandemic on the minds of voters as they cast their ballots

United Federation of Fil-Am Educators Co-Founder Ronie Mataquel and wife Justeena Mataquel. Photos by Boyet Loverita

By Lindy Rosales

As a long-time New York City resident, I have never seen early voting like this before: Long lines stretching several blocks, with people waiting patiently in the cold weather for their turn at the poll booth. It’s been reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio waited almost four hours before he could cast his vote in Brooklyn.

We visited two voting sites, in the Bronx and Queens.

The lines in the Bronx were moving along smoothly. Teacher Candace de los Santos was excited to be there for her “civic duty.” She was in line at 10:15 a.m., three blocks away and got inside the Christopher Columbus High School at 11:05 a.m.

“Sandali lang naman. Akala ko aabot ako hangang alas 3, hindi naman pala,”  said Candace, who was nevertheless prepared for the long wait.

As a first-time voter, she decided to vote in person because she wanted to be sure that her vote would be counted.

“This is my first time to vote that’s why I prefer to come here in person rather than doing it on paper and just mailing it. I leave everything to God, you know. I will do my part kung ano man yong vi-note ko galing sa puso,” she said. Although she was wearing a blue jacket, she declined to reveal who she voted for.

We spotted United Federation of Fil-Am Educators Co-Founder Ronie Mataquel and his wife Justeena Mataquel.

The author at left, with social worker Shiran Ybanez (center) and Attorney Lara Gregory and husband.

“Mas maganda talaga yong your vote can be counted right away,” said Ronie sharing his voting experience.  “Wala naman sigurong problema sa mail-in voting pero mas maganda yong experience na ikaw mismo ang maglalagay ng ballot mo sa machine.”

Mataquel talked about how he has been trying to bring his parents to the U.S., and why immigration reform is an issue he cares about in this presidential election.

“Right now, it’s kind of hard for immigrants,” he said. “If you really want to bring back the workforce in the country you need to change the immigration reform and admit people who are really willing to help the U.S. It looks like it’s becoming difficult to apply. We are hardworking people in this country and it seems that we are being penalized. My dad is struggling to get his visa. I hope that whoever wins the next term, ma-fix na nila ang mga problem na ito.”

“Mabilis lang ang pila,” said his wife Justeena, who is also an NYC educator. She shared an interesting experience inside the polling place.

“The machine did not take my ballot at first,” she said. “They had to change it (machine) so I had to go back and get a new one (ballot). I never expected that.”

The FilAm travelled across the bridge to Queens, where we found Attorney Lara Gregory at the Variety Boys and Girls Club early voting site in Long Island City. The line wrapped around the block but was moving slower than the one in the Bronx.  

“I think there’s something about the experience na personal, and you are also able to make sure that your vote is counted,” said Gregory. “You eliminate the other possibilities in the mailing. But so long as it’s safe, a person has a mask, and so long as you’re in the correct early voting poll site (you should be OK).”

This long line wraps around the Variety Boys & Girls Club building in Queens.

Gregory said she hopes whoever wins as president will take the pandemic seriously.

“Kasi that’s a very very important issue especially for Filipinos. We have a lot of front line workers, nurses, doctors and other people in healthcare and also workers in the restaurant industry. The president should be in control and handle the pandemic in a better way.”

As we were walking down the block we passed by a long line of voters and ran into Shiran Ybanez, a social worker who works for the Department of Social Services of NYC. He was waiting in line.

Interviewed later in the day, he said, “I waited in line for about 15 minutes as I came later in the afternoon. It was fast inside. They were very strict with the social distancing, with the mask on. The people were helpful, so it was good,” he said. “Except for the person handling all the ID cards, he was not wearing gloves. So I had to spray my ID (with sanitizer) after that.”

Asked who his candidate was, he said, “I became undecided when Bernie Sanders lost. I actually liked his platform which contradicted with (presidential candidate Joe) Biden.”

He continued, “I made some research, I watched the debate, listened to all the comments, all the news. As a Christian, as a parish pastoral council member of the Church of Ascension, I really am conservative in choosing this time especially about the issue of abortion. It weighed a lot in my decision. So, I voted conservative.”

© The FilAm 2020

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