PODCAST – A Conversation about New Americans exercising their right to vote.

MAR 18 2024

In this episode, Jonathan Nunez talks about the importance of New Americans exercising their right to vote. Why it’s essential to have your voice heard and ways to connect with your local and state officials. Tune in to gain insights and inspiration to make your voice count. LISTEN HERE

Transcript

Coming here to this country and going through the citizenship process Definitely instilled a sense of responsibility and duty to shape this country in a way that benefits me and people like me Right and the way that we accomplish those things is by participating in the democracy that we are part of.

I think this experiment that we call democracy only works if we participate actively in it. I know staying informed and participating is difficult for a lot of people.

Everybody, I mean, we all have jobs. And families to take care of. And it can be overwhelming sometimes to stay informed and make informed decisions that affect all of us. How long have you, participated? Ever since I could vote. As soon as I turned 18 in the very next election, I voted.

What channels do you use to stay on top of politics? Because, you know, here a lot of people talk about certain stations, pushing a certain, agenda. So how do you stay informed?

I don’t know if, being able to stay informed from purely unbiased sources is a thing that exists anymore. But I pay more attention to What’s going on in my area. I like to think globally and nationally, but I like to act locally Because I think that’s where we make the biggest impact with our neighbors in our community so I try to stay informed with what’s going on at the city level I’m a favorable resident.

I know some my city council members. I think that’s an important part to kind of cross that threshold and, and really communicate with the people who are representing you and get to know them. ’cause they’re just people like you and I. They’re not all powerful beings or, you know, people behind the curtain pulling levers in control of your future.

There are people who are supposed to be working for us and and for our best interest. So I like to keep in touch with ’em. Sarah Moore and DeAndre Jones, are two people that I’ve had the pleasure to talk to and get to know who’s doing a lot for our community, especially the housing crisis that’s happening in our region. Even at the county level, being introduced to JP’s, that represent us Beth Cogar is doing a lot of really good work. She is the District 19 Justice of the Peace and that’s where I live. I got the chance to talk to her and get to know her and vote for her. Being able to have that relationship with people that are representing me is so important to me and I think if more people did it, they would be able to understand the process more and the system in which they live and operate better.

What do you think are some challenges or misconceptions when it comes to low voter turnout and not registering to vote within the new American communities?

That’s a great question. I think there’s logistical obstacles in place that makes it hard for people, one, to register to vote and two, actually go and vote. Early voting is a great thing. There’s a lot of things that we can do to make that process even better and even broader and even more accessible to, to people.

I don’t have all the answers, to these problems because I think at the national stage and, Arkansas historically has been a non voting state. People will tell you that it’s a red state or it’s a purple state, it’s a blue, the fact of the matter is that people just don’t go out to vote in our communities.

I think a big reason for that is that there’s a big contingent that is Disenfranchised and aren’t listened to and they feel really demoralized and like their vote doesn’t count. So I think the first step to getting people out to the polls is always going to be education. The more educated people are, the more informed that people are, the more willing they would be to go and make a choice.

The second step could be expanding early voter dates to have polls open later so people can get to them after work to make them more convenient for people with families and small children to go and be able to go vote. Yeah, I think those are two good starts.

Why is it important to pay attention to local officials in addition to national, like, President and Senate and Congress?

It’s really important for a lot of reasons. One of them being, it’s strategically, important to do this as a party, as a contingent, because that’s what the other side is usually doing.

They’re starting at the grassroots. They’re going for school board. Positions, and then going to city level administratively, then going to the county level, and moving up and up, to the point where your entire community is ran by like minded people, right? So, those local, small, school board elections are really important.

Voting for your county judge is super important. Voting for your attorney general is really important. Understanding what that process looks like and why it’s important. Understanding the state supreme court and who sits on it and, and how those term limits work. Really, once you understand that, once you have that knowledge and that information, you are empowered to go out there and make sure that those people that are doing those jobs are working for you.

You mentioned earlier that you had met with some candidates. How, how did you go about doing that, and what was the reception like?

It’s surprisingly easy. I think it’s going to vary from person to person, candidate to candidate, how responsive they are to you and to a request to meet.

Most local politicians will say that they have an open door policy, you can go get coffee with them, they encourage that, they promote that. At the end of the day, if they actually go through with that, it’s a different story. But the people that I’ve reached out to, have been extremely responsive and are really transparent and really accessible.

And that’s what I look for in a candidate. It’s somebody who’s going to listen to me while they’re running. If they don’t even listen to me while they’re running they’re not going to listen to me once they’re elected into office, right? And so, being able to Go and meet them as candidates and ask them questions about what their platform is and what their stance is on things that are important to me or important to them.

Getting to know them has been really easy. For example Billy Cook is running for state representative. He’s in my district and he’s actually my neighbor. He lives two apartment complexes down. His day job is working for Arkansas Renters United. So his platform is based on renter’s rights which is a conversation we desperately need to have throughout the entire state.

But him running and potentially being able to represent me at the Capitol is something that’s really important to me. So I volunteered to go door knocking with them and help out on this campaign and that’s what being an active participant in our democracy looks like, going out there and being informed and then taking action to make sure that other people have that same benefit.

What, advice would you give to New Americans once they establish citizenship about getting involved? If you were doing a call to action right now?

My call to action would be for new citizens to go to quorum court meetings. They happen monthly. Go to city council meetings. Start getting to know the people who represent you. Because of all the reasons that I’ve said earlier, but also just because it can be a lot of fun. It can be really empowering. It can make you feel like a leader. In your community and in your own life, to take that power and try to figure out solutions to things that are impacting you and your family and your community, because we’re all in this together, and it doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen if nobody does it go out to your local city council, go out to your quorum court, get to know your representatives and speak out, speak out on, on anything. There’s time dedicated to public comment that you have a lot of time for people to listen to you and you have the mic and you get to say what’s on your heart and what your needs are so people can address them.

What did you do to figure out how to get in touch with your people, your representatives, and the candidates in general?

You just have to be very persistent a lot of the times. Once you start going, you’ll start meeting people organically and naturally. But you can seek them out.

They all will have websites. You can go to your local cities, websites, they will have information on how to, reach your city council members, how to figure out what district or what ward you’re in, and those are really important things to figure out. And then they will have contact information for you to, to get in contact with those people.

And they’ll also have, public calendars available for any upcoming meetings or dates, the county’s putting it on. So they’re pretty transparent about that, so that information is very accessible.

You’re very well versed. You know your stuff. And you have a very compelling argument about the importance of voting. Where did all of that come from? I would vote for you.

I think just from a really young age, I mean, my mom was going through, getting her citizenship and I was still really young and, but I was old enough to really understand how big of a deal it was, right? And how it was going to change my family’s life and my life in particular. My stepdad was an American. He served in the, in the military, in the United States military. And, he was a big proponent of participating in democracy and educating me about the political systems that are in place in this country. I just gravitated to politics naturally. It’s something that just interests me and I find fascinating. And yeah, I never looked back. That’s awesome.

Thank you, Jonathan, for such an informative and inspiring conversation. To all of our listeners, if you haven’t registered to vote yet, please take the time to do so. Get to know your local policymakers and make your voice heard as soon as possible. Your vote matters. Thank you for tuning in.

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