On Election Day, anticipation and those gratifying “I voted” stickers you attach to your shirt are everywhere. The lines are long, the process sometimes confusing, but for one day in the U.S., we are all permanently glued to our televisions — and now our Twitter feeds — to find out our fate for the next four years.
No matter who you are casting your votes for, it's an exciting and nerve-wracking day.
For many who have just turned 18, it's an important coming-of-age milestone, for some a lifelong tradition. For the millions of immigrants who have not been automatically granted the privilege to vote at birth, but who have worked hard and long enough to be given the right to have a voice in this country, it's a day that carries a lot of weight — a day that, despite our upbringing, cultural centers and nostalgic memories of another time and place, makes us feel truly, without a doubt, American.
When our names get crossed off that list in the auditoriums of schools and the halls of churches by poll workers, it is a definitive answer that we belong to this country. When we're overwhelmed with emotion and find ourselves disappointed or overjoyed as the night comes to an end, it is a sign that we're invested, that we are part of this sprawling 50-state community with so much opportunity to offer.
When we urge our friends and family to take the time to be part of the voting process, even if they think their votes don't really matter, we remember those in our countries of origin, in our former regions, who are dying every day for their rights to be a part of a democratic process, for their rights to vote in a leader of their choice, not someone else's.
Voting means that we're home.
With the race neck and neck and minority populations growing tremendously according to the most recent Census data, the immigrant vote and the issues they care about matter more now than ever before. As Latinos have emerged as the largest minority group in the country, Islam as the fastest-growing religion and Asians as the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S., minorities cannot be ignored any longer when it comes to politics.
In key swing states like Florida and Michigan for example, the Latino or Muslim vote could very well decide the election by mere thousands of votes.
In short, the minority vote is important, and beyond this 2012 election cycle, its importance will only grow.
Attention to issues that matter to minority voters, like immigration reform, education and healthcare will be critical. Relating to and representing the interests of minority voters no longer will be something that can be bypassed.
Going forward, courting minority votes will not be a choice, but a necessity.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: This column will now run every Thursday starting next week.